Best Exercise for Fitness: The health benefits of walking, the easiest way to keep fit, are enormous. Here are tips on the best walking technique, correct posture, the right shoes, and more. Remember, walking is useless if you don’t do it right.
Health Benefits of Walking: Regular walking is perhaps the most common and easiest way to keep fit. It’s convenient and affordable, you don’t need any equipment, and most importantly, you can do it anywhere, anytime. However, don’t let the super simplicity of walking as exercise fool you into thinking there’s no right or wrong way to do it correctly. Remember, walking, if not done right, is useless.
Dr Vishwadeep Sharma, Assistant Director, Arthroscopy and Sports Injuries, Department of Orthopedics, Fortis Hospital, New Delhi helps us with the right techniques to keep in mind, which if not followed, will leave you wasting your time and energy, and possibly even hurt yourself.
How long should you walk?
WHO recommends walking for at least 30 minutes a minimum of 5 days a week for a healthy heart. However, if your goal is weight loss, you need to increase it to 45 minutes.
Pro tip:Add 5 minutes a day at your own pace.
What are the best shoes?
Choose walking shoes that are not heavy, flexible and have adequate cushioning.
Pro tip:Walking shoes with well-cushioned heels and medial arch support are best. If you have flat feet, choose medial arch support shoes as they help protect your arches from pain and discomfort. Look for a specific model for walking while shopping.
How do you select clothes?
The clothes you wear while walking should be loose, comfortable and made of breathable fabric. Remember, you need to move easily and your clothes shouldn’t get wet with sweat or moisture.
Pro tip:Don’t go for fancy dresses. Avoid clothing that restricts movement such as skinny jeans or tights. Choose a fabric that is breathable in nature.
Is there a correct posture while walking?
Is simple. Don’t walk like a penguin. Don’t lean forward or backward as your muscles fatigue as you walk. Keep your shoulders back and relaxed. You need to keep your core muscles active as it helps maintain speed and gives you better control over your hips, knees and ankles. This will help you pick up the pace, maintain core strength, and even avoid back pain.
Pro tip:Sloping shoulders or a hunched back are a big No. Don’t look down and your foot movement should be heel to toe. Make sure you are not tense as it will make your body tense including your shoulders, neck and waist. That’s no good.
What should be the position of my arms?
Holding your arms straight or flailing along your body doesn’t propel you dynamically. Keep your arms at 90 degrees at the elbow with left foot forward and right arm forward and vice versa. This helps maintain an even speed.
Pro tip: Don’t copy the over march action while walking or holding your arms in the air. It will mess up your balance and speed. Let them swing naturally back and forth in contrast to the movement of the legs.
What about my chin?
Keep your chin lifted, parallel to the ground, to avoid straining your neck and back.
Pro tip:Don’t make the mistake of looking down, checking your cell phone as you walk. If you have to listen to music while walking, headphones are a good idea.
Should I stretch before and after the walk?
Stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, and achilles tendon helps avoid sore muscles. When done regularly, it helps a lot in avoiding aches and pains especially if you walk for more than 30-40 minutes. After covering a targeted distance, dedicate about ten minutes to stretching and cooling down for proper muscle recovery.
Pro tip:Hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds.
Why is hydration important?
If you feel thirsty during your walk, take a sip of water at a time instead of swallowing the water bottle whole.
Pro tip:Do not drink soda or sports drinks while walking. You don’t need extra electrolytes if you’re going for a moderate walk. The best way to stay hydrated when walking is with water. Older people, especially those taking antihypertensives, should keep hydrated to avoid fainting.
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