Wellness genie: miracles of walking

Walking, a basic human mobility action, is now on doctors’ prescription. A daily 30 minute walk has become an integral part of prescribed medical programmes worldwide, for heart patients, diabetics and people suffering from blood pressure and autoimmune diseases.

There can be no doubt that walking is the fountain of youth and longevity. If everybody understood the benefits of walking, very few people would be buying cars. The benefits range from improved bone health, stronger hearts and better circulation, increased glucose tolerance and decreased blood pressure to cognitive benefits and much more. This article is not meant to list the benefits, only to point out some walking techniques which are rarely discussed but if incorporated in daily walks, can have a transformative effect on our bodies and mind.

Let’s start with the pace of walking. Gary Yanker suggests in The Complete Book of Exercise Walking that there aer four basic pace levels: strolling, normal walking, brisk or aerobic walking. Which one is best for you? Strolling may be the slowest form of walking but it engages all the walking muscle groups and burns calories slowly. Its results are convincing if one walks for 2 to 3 hours a day. It can benefit people with acid reflux as a 15 to 20 minute stroll after dinner can reduce discomfort. A 2019 study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the United States, showed that light physical activity such as strolling through a park might be enough to significantly lower the risk of cardiovascular disease among women. Strolling is suitable for the young, the old and the fit. Adults having no physical disability or condition are recommended to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day at normal pace. This amounts to 90 minute of walking in the day and can help shed weight off your body quite efficiently. House chores add up to 3,000 steps. Most people are constrained by the time and therfore opt for shorter walks.

Gathering all that stamina would be futile if the arms don’t swing proportionately to support that body’s synchronized movement. This is hampered when walkers are inclined to use mobile phones, during walking

Short walks at a brisk pace can do miracles for your health and weight management. Gary Yanker suggests that a walker in excellent condition may require a speed of four or five miles per hour for 30 to 60 minutes.

Gathering all that stamina would be futile if the arms don’t swing proportionately to support that body’s synchronized movement. This is hampered when walkers are inclined to use mobile phones, during walking. Folding one forearm up to hold the phone, brings tremendous instability to the intrinsic balance of the body. It affects the hip movement and mobility in the neck and shoulder, altering our gait. Additionally, any sort of conversation will release stress related hormones which is not the purpose of walking. It is advisable to make use of pockets or waist pouches for must-carry items and keep mobile phones at bay during walks.

Proper breathing during physical exertion is of vital importance. It directly impacts our physiology. The science of breath has been most extensively studied in yoga. The natural pathway for inhalation and exhalation is through the nostrils. According to the science of yoga, gasping air into the body through the mouth is impure as it makes the body susceptible to infections, allergies and asthma, etc. Leislie Kaminoff reminds us of the ancient principle in his book, Yoga Anatomy, “the main task of yoga practice is the removal of obstacles that impede the natural functioning of our systems”. The purification channel in our nostrils is just about removing the obstacles, such as the tiny hair in the nose filter the impurities, then the air is warmed up to suit our body temperature and the mucus will further purify the air before it goes into our system. Yogic breathing principles suggest that during physical exertion, talking on phone, carrying on long conversations with friends or reciting beads, can be detrimental to your health.

Diaphragm is a much ignored muscle responsible for 80 percent of the respiratory work. It also helps increase blood flow to vital organs, which in turn helps lower belly fat. Talking causes shallow breathing and inactivation of the diaphragm so that the lungs are not fully emptied of carbon dioxide. This will result in physiological changes in the body associated with retention of carbon dioxide, such as dizziness and lethargy.

Walking is not just good for the body. It also stimulates creativity in your mind. Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford published a study in 2014, which revealed that during walking people are more creative. The volunteers were either sitting or walking and had to come up with unusual ideas for everyday objects, such as a button or a tire. Walkers turned out to be ingenious compared to sitters.

People often underestimate the power of walking correctly. Concentrating on your breath can be incredibly therapeutic. A soft focus on thought will stimulate the brain. At the end of the day, we walk not because of what science says it does, but for how it make us feel – refreshed and recovered.

The writer is a wellness and yoga expert

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