Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Walking is one of the easiest and best ways to not only lose body weight but also to maintain good health

A brisk walk of 30 minutes take you far when it comes to health and weight control. Incorporate as much walking as you can in your lifestyle and reap the benefits. As diehard walkers believe, why take the car when you can walk? Even climbing stairs comes under the category of walking. They say taking the stairs is akin to taking your heart for a walk! Can you beat that?

What’s the pace?

Its important to maintain a steady pace while walking. Brisk walks work well, my friend whose walking is as good as my jogging always maintained, slow walking is as good as no walking!

Way to do it

Fitness experts emphasise that it is important to do a few minutes of stretching before getting down to the business of walking, especially in the mornings. If you walk without warming up you might end up straining your muscles and suffer aches and pains.

Benefits of walking: • It improves cardiovascular fitness by getting the heart to beat faster to send blood rich in oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. This makes the functioning of the heart and lungs more efficient, besides reducing blood pressure and the resting heart rate. Walking also helps one recover from a heart attack. • Walking also reduces the risk of getting a heart attack. If you are over 40 years old and have heart problems, pulse rate, weight, respiration, blood pressure, or cholesterol problems, speak to your doctor before walking. • It improves blood circulation to the arms and legs and gives a feeling of overall well-being.

• It also relieves depression, stress and anxiety because it releases endorphins, the body’s natural tranquillizers. • A good brisk walk can also stimulate your thinking. • By walking, you can burn a higher percentage of body fat, increase your overall health and fitness and boost your energy levels. Don’t wait for the right reason or season before you can go out walking. Seize the moment and go out now.

The Numerous Benefits of Walking

If a daily fitness walk could be put in a pill, it would be one of the most popular prescriptions in the world. It has so many health benefits. Walking can reduce the risk of many diseases — from heart attack and stroke to hip fracture and glaucoma. These may sound like claims on a bottle of snake oil, but they're backed by major research. Walking requires no prescription, the risk of side effects is very low, and the benefits are numerous:

1. Managing your weight. Combined with healthy eating, physical activity is key to any plan for long-lasting weight control. Keeping your weight within healthy limits can lower your risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis.

2. Controlling your blood pressure. Physical activity strengthens the heart so it can pump more blood with less effort and with less pressure on the arteries. Staying fit is just as effective as some medications in keeping down blood pressure levels.Decreasing your risk of heart attack. Exercise such as brisk walking for three hours a week — or just half an hour a day — is associated with a 30% to 40% lower risk of heart disease in women. (Based on the 20-year Nurses' Health Study of 72,000 female nurses.)

3. Boosting "good" cholesterol – the level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Physical activity helps reduce low-density lipoproteins (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) in the blood, which can cause plaque buildup along the artery walls — a major cause of heart attacks.

4. Lowering your risk of stroke. Regular, moderate exercise equivalent to brisk walking for an hour a day, five days a week, can cut the risk of stroke in half, according to a Harvard study of more than 11,000 men.

5. Reducing your risk of breast cancer and type 2 diabetes. The Nurses' Health Study also links regular activity to risk reductions for both these diseases. In another study, people at high risk of diabetes cut their risk in half by combining consistent exercise like walking with lower fat intake and a 5% to 7% weight loss.

6. Avoiding your need for gallstone surgery. Regular walking or other physical activity lowers the risk of needing gallstone surgery by 20% to 31%, found a Harvard study of more than 60,000 women ages 40 to 65.

7. Protecting against hip fracture. Consistent activity diminishes the risk of hip fracture, concludes a study of more than 30,000 men and women ages 20 to 93.

The list goes on and on. Many other studies indicate a daily brisk walk also can help:

• Prevent depression, colon cancer, constipation, osteoporosis, and impotence • Lengthen lifespan • Lower stress levels • Relieve arthritis and back pain • Strengthen muscles, bones, and joints • Improve sleep • Elevate overall mood and sense of well-being. Keep it steady

A steady routine is the most important factor in getting the most out of your exercise program. Walking for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 or more days a week is recommended.Use these tips to keep you on track:

• During your walks, you should be able to maintain a conversation. If you're breathing too lightly, increase your pace. If you can't catch your breath, slow it down. • Walk around the local area after lunch or dedicate 15 minutes to walking up and down stairs. Climbing is an excellent way to strengthen your heart. • At night, trade a half hour of TV for a brisk stroll around the block. Take a friend with you for company or get the whole family involved.

The Best Medicine

Any amount of walking is good, but for the best health results, set a brisk pace and walk for 30 minutes at least 5 times a week. Be sure to check with your doctor on the level of exercise that's best for you.

Walking shoes need to be replaced every six months, but how do you know if the shoe fits? Sharon Barbano, a walking coach and a spokeswoman for Saucony, suggests these four simple tests:

Flex: The front of the shoe -- but not the arch -- should bend easily.

Wiggle: Move your toes up and down then side to side within the toe box. There should be room for toes to splay as you walk. Rock: Lean back on your heel and check for cushioning, stability and support. As you walk, your heel should feel snug and stable, cupped within the shoe. Roll: Slowly take one step forward from heel to toe. You shouldn't feel any resistance or pinching as your foot goes through the motion. The sneaker above illustrates the most important features to shop for:

1. Thick tongue to prevent pressure from the laces 2. Ankle collar with padding; heel notch to prevent pressure on Achilles tendon 3. Rounded, cushioned heel

4. Tread (the rougher the surface, the more you need) 5. Mesh or leather upper

6. Padded insole

7. Round, high toe box

8. Reflective material on heel and toe 9. Laces should be snug but not too tight on the tendons on top of foot. 10. Choose your perfect workout from our three walking plans, tailored to fit into your schedule. If I only walk three times a week for 30 minutes, do I really need walking-specific shoes?

If you want to be kind to your feet while getting the most from your walks, it is wise to invest in a pair of quality walking shoes. They'll set you back £40 to £70, but they're worth it. A well-made pair cuts your chance of injury significantly. Here are three key features to look for: 1) a flexible forefoot that bends at the ball of your foot, not at the arch; 2) a bevelled or rounded heel to ease your foot into the natural roll from heel to toe; 3) a "forgiving" upper (the part of the shoe that encases your foot).

What's the difference between a walking shoe and a running shoe?

Looks aside, walking shoes are substantially different from running shoes, particularly for the midsoles (the cushioning layer underneath the shoe). Since walkers hit the ground with less force than runners, they don't require as much cushioning. A walking shoe's thinner midsole allows for a more natural foot roll from the heel through to the toes; a thick heel wedge can cause the forefoot to slap down, leading to shin soreness or even shin splints. The flexible outsole (the bottom of a shoe) on walking shoes, versus the stiffer ones on running models, also facilitates this roll-through motion. What's the best walking shoe?

As with all athletic shoes, there's no one universal best. The shoe with the lightweight cushioning and super-flexible sole that your speedy co-worker swears by could be a disaster for your high-arched, in-need-of-extra-cushioning foot. Go to a sporting goods shop with a good selection and try on a variety of brands and models of walking shoes. Wear the socks you normally exercise in, and spend several minutes walking in the shoes on a hard surface and on carpeting. Look for a pair that softens the impact of the hard floor yet feels stable on carpet. How can I be sure the shoe fits?

Walking shoes should feel comfortable when you try them on in the shop. The idea that you have to 'break in' a pair of shoes for them to be comfortable is a myth. Discomfort at the fitting stage will be compounded on the road. Some tips for finding a good fit: • Allow a half-inch between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe.

• Try on both shoes; one foot is usually bigger than the other.

• Make sure the ball of your foot fits easily in the widest part of the shoe. Likewise, your heel shouldn't slip around in the back of the shoe.

• Shop in the late afternoon when your feet are slightly swollen, especially if you typically exercise after work.

How can I tell when it's time for a new pair? A well-constructed walking shoe should carry you 300 to 500 miles, which translates to three to six months for most walkers. At that point, the midsole will have lost a good deal of its ability to cushion, the outsole will be showing signs of excessive wear, and the upper could be pulling away from the midsole. Here's a definite way to know when you need a new pair. Once you find a pair of shoes you really like, buy two pairs. Designate one pair for daily walks, and save the other pair for your Sunday stroll. When the everyday pair looks noticeably more worn than the Sunday shoes, stop using the everyday shoes and make the Sunday pair your new daily ones. Then buy a new Sunday-only pair.

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