So, you’re walking daily but is it enough exercise?

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In this day and age, your mind is probably saturated with information that exercise can protect against several diseases, keep humans mobile and functioning in their old age, and balance their mental faculties.

While there are so many forms of exercises out there, the easiest of them all is walking – an activity that leaves a positive impact on our health and well-being.

From the moment we take our first steps as a baby to the time we exit this planet, this locomotor skill is one we never forget unless there’s a brain injury.

Walking with others can turn exercise into an enjoyable social occasion, but is walking enough to be considered an exercise?

It’s a question that has been posed to many physical fitness trainers and medical professionals.

Depending on who you speak to, they all have differing views.

For a lot of people, especially the elderly, walking alone is sufficient – of course, any exercise is better than nothing at all.

However, there are several aspects of exercise that cannot be obtained from just walking, especially if you’re simply strolling.

Scores of studies are emerging that show the benefits of walking faster and the perils of walking slowly on a daily basis.

A 2006 study conducted by researchers at The University of Sydney published in The British Journal Of Sports Medicine found that the faster a person walks on average, the lower their risk of both all-cause mortality and death linked to heart disease.

In another 2021 study, “Obesity, walking pace and risk of severe Covid-19 and mortality: analysis of UK Biobank” published in the International Journal Of Obesity, data revealed that people who walk slowly are up to four times more likely to die from severe cases of Covid-19 and have more than double the chance of contracting severe cases of the virus than their brisk-walking counterparts.

A good walking pace

If you can walk independently and maintain a speed of 4-6km per hour, then it is considered a moderate to brisk walk and is sufficient cardiovascular exercise, depending on your age and fitness level.

At this pace, you should be breathing noticeably harder, but still able to speak in full sentences (not sing!). All you need is 30 minutes daily, five days a week, at this speed for better heart health.

Most people can expect to walk a mile (1.6km) in 15 to 22 minutes, according to data gathered in a 2019 study spanning five decades published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A number of readers have also asked if they should walk faster or longer distances.

Well, both offer benefits and, if your schedule permits or your mind is in chaos, opt for a longer walk instead but slow down the pace a bit according to your ability.

You will still reap the heart health benefits but with a lower risk of sustaining an injury.

Over time, your body will adapt to build endurance; thereafter, you will be able to pick up speed and accelerate to combine both distance and speed.

Longer walks along scenic routes enable you to clear muddled thoughts and have better focus. It does wonders for your mental health, which is just as important as physical health.

When you’re in a bad mood, walking in nature can help reduce ruminating over negative experiences, which increases activity in the brain associated with negative emotions and raises the risk of depression.

However, to optimise health gains, you need to incorporate a combination of aerobic and strength training exercises.

While walking builds strength in your legs, it does not do much for the upper body or core muscles.

So, consider throwing into the mix two weekly sessions of some physical activity that challenges your strength and balance – push-ups, crunches, planks, etc.

Advances in medical science are keeping us all living longer. This mixture of walking and strength training will help us stay well in our youth and remain independent as we age.

Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.



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