August 20, 2016

The Benefits of Walking

Walking is the easiest, cheapest and most effective exercise that benefits our health. A morning walk and a cold shower afterwards is very refreshing and rejuvenating, that kept me light hearted and agile the whole day. The day I missed my walk, is the day I noticed my age catching up on me. I am not exaggerating and those who did the walking earnestly and systematically would support that statement.
The benefits of walking are manifold. In the early hours, the traffic is still light, so there is no or very little air pollution, which makes breathing easier. The weather is cool and pleasant and makes your mind clear and your heart light. During the morning walks, I felt relaxed and devoid of worries or anxieties. Thus I am free from stress and strains, which are detrimental to the mental health. The fundamentals of longevity is leading a healthy life: both physically and mentally.
Mental health is more important than physical health, though both are necessary. Mental depressions lead to rapid aging and to early deaths. In the chronic cases suicidal tendencies set in and could lead to actual suicides. Walking could, to a certain extent, reduce mental depression. I am saying this from my personal experience. Most of us, at one time or the other had suffered mental depressions, though mild they may be, and I am no exception. My way of overcoming depression is to do a rigorous exercise; either jogging or brisk walking.
The Second Heart
I totally accept the accuracy of the analogy that describes the legs as the second heart. In 1992, I suffered from a mild ischemic heart disease. In those days my workload was very heavy, so I didn’t have time for exercise. It started with a piercing pain in the chest. It was nothing like the chest pains that I had experienced before, that were caused by stomach gas that moved from place to place. I checked-up with a physician friend of mine. Based on the ECG results, he told me that two of my lead veins were a bit constricted but there was nothing to worry. He prescribed blood thinning medicines only and advised me to walk regularly.
Starting the next morning, I began walking. After about a hundred meters or so, I had to sit down and rest as I felt exhausted. Only a few years before that, I used to jog and walk around the Kandawgyi almost every morning without getting that tired. However, I kept going for a walk every morning and gradually I could walk farther and farther each day. Eventually, after about six months, I was walking around the Kandawgyi without getting tired. I checked-up again and found no sign of ischemic on the ECG graph anymore. To be doubly sure I underwent stress test on a treadmill at the General Hospital and was confirmed that my heart was normal. I believed the walking cured me, so I kept walking since then. During the raining seasons I rode a stationary cycle at home, if I could not go out to walk due to the rains.
The leg movements pumped the blood from the feet up to the heart from where it was distributed throughout the body. This eased the load on the heart. Thus the legs are in fact the secondary pumps or the second hearts. About five years after the above incident, while my wife was getting treatment from a cardiac specialist, I rechecked with him. He asked me what were my complaints. I replied, I had nothing to complain, but just want to check because I had a history of ischemic heart. After checking the ECG results and thoroughly checking me physically, he told me I had no sign of ischemic heart and asked me if I was sure I had suffered that before. I told him I was sure and that I used to walk at least three miles every morning since then. On hearing that, he told me not to worry about getting heart attack or stroke if I kept on doing that.
Since then I advised my friends to walk. After writing an article on how to lose weight, where I mentioned about combining dieting with walking, an idea came to me to write the benefits of walking. As I want to give the readers more precise informations, I searched the Internet. There I found that the benefits of walking are more diverse than I knew.
The Benefits of Walking
Walking is the best aerobic exercise, that is easy, cheap and effective. It is within anyone’s reach. It has many health benefits, which I’ll describe briefly.
1. Walking strengthen the heart. Walking regularly could reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. It lowers the bad cholesterols ( LDL) and increase the good cholesterols (HDL). Helps prevent and control the high blood pressure, which is the main cause of strokes.
2. Walking lowers disease risks. Regular walks reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and less likely to develop cancer of the colon, breast and womb.
3. Walking helps weight loss. Walking burns calories that constitute the body fats, thus regularly walking would reduce the body weight.
4. Walking prevents dementia and lowers Alzheimer’s risk. Dementia effects 1 in 14 persons aged over 65 and 1 in 6 persons aged over 80. Older people who walk at least six miles per week are more likely to avoid brain shrinkage, which is the cause of memory loss.
5. Walking tones up the muscles. Walking tones up the muscles and thus gives definition to the legs, hips and abdomens. If uphill walking can be incorporated, it would be more effective.
6. Walking boosts vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for the bone health and the immune system. Exposure to sunlight is necessary for the production of vitamin D. Thus walking is a pleasant way of enjoying the outdoors, at the same time supplement the vitamin D requirements.
7. Walking generates energy. More energy can get more work done. Walking boosts the blood circulations increasing more oxygen supply to every cells in the body making it alert and alive. Thus walking is a natural energizer.
8. Walking makes you happy. Walking enhances the mood. It is as efficient as an antidepressant in mild to moderate cases of mental depression. It also reduces stress and anxiety.
9. Walking leads to a longer life. People who walk regularly live longer than the non-walkers.
10. Walking improves sleep. People aged 50 to 70, who take one-hour morning walks are more likely to relieve insomnia than those who don’t walk.
11. Walking supports the joints. Walking feeds the joints with nutrients required to maintain a healthy cartilage that supports the movements of the joints.
12. Walking improves the breath. Breathing rate increases while walking. This causes oxygen to travel faster through the bloodstreams helping to eliminate waste products. It improves the energy level and the ability to heal.
13. Walking shores up the bones. It can stop loss of bone mass in women with osteoporosis. It could reduce hip bone fracture in women who walked regularly.
14. Walking benefits people with arthritis. Walking is easy on the joints, so it is suitable, especially for those with arthritis.
Some recommend to do brisk walking to be effective, but some say that it doesn’t need to be a brisk walk. From my experience, if walking is for weight loss it should be a brisk walk as it would burn more calories. However, for other benefits just normal walking would be effective enough. For senior citizens, half an hour of normal walk, four tines a week is recommended to be enough to maintain a healthy life. If you can do more without exerting too much on yourself, it would be more beneficial. As for me, though I am in my late seventies, I walked an hour almost everyday, if my constitution permits. However, if I didn’t get enough sleep due to various reasons, I wouldn’t go walking that day. To make walking more interesting have a pedometer application downloaded in your mobile phone. Take it along with you wherever you go. It will record how many step walked, the distance traversed, the time lapsed and the amount of calories burned during the whole day. In my experience it made me compete against myself, by making me want to better the previous day’s record. In conclusion, I would like to urge my fellow countrymen to walk your ways towards longer and healthier lives.


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