You probably made one of your new year resolutions as keeping fit but you have failed to make it to the gym. Walking is one of the simplest ways of working out, where you may not need any special equipment, a gym membership or even a partner.
Like any other exercise, walking can help you lose body fat and improve your joint health, circulation, bone density, sleep cycle, blood pressure, and boost your mood.
Aisha Namyalo, an accountant, spends most of her work hours sitting in her office and gets less time to exercise. She resorted to walking back home as a way of losing weight as advised by a friend.
“I planned to arrive at my work place very early, do all the tasks I had then leave by 5pm. This would get me enough time to walk home. When I use taxi, it takes me about 30 minutes to reach home on a day there is no traffic.”
Namyalo started walking in February and she first devoted two hours for her to arrive at her home. “I move with extra shoes and clothes and after work, I change and start walking. I started at a slow pace, taking a bit longer because I was not used to exercising. Whenever I tried to increase the speed, my heart would beat so fast and I would get tired easily,” she recalls.
Nobert Bwana, a physiotherapist at Physique Centre in Kamwokya, recommends making a realistic goal if one wants to see results.
Start with shorter distances and shorter time frames and slower paces so you will not feel so tired, then increase the pace and distance with time. When you are not hitting your goal, you may want a more challenging workout and may have to increase the number of days, increase your speed and find another route.
Put it on schedule
Namyalo walks home three times a week and she advises that if you are an early riser, you can plan to walk first thing in the morning or if evenings are better, include it on your to do list.
She says, “I walk in the evenings but now I increased my pace because I am usually prepared and used to it. I get a few minutes of cooling down on the way but now I reach home in 80 minutes compared to 120 in the past four months.”
Drink enough water
You will surely sweat as you walk, which means you lose water more quickly. When water levels get too low, you will become dehydrated and will feel tired, nauseated, dizzy, or confused even before the end of the exercise.
Prepare your journey by drinking enough water before you start walking or consider carrying some along the way, especially when it is hot.
Bwana says, “Drinking a soda ahead of the exercise will add too much sugar and more calories that will not be helpful in your goal to maintain a good weight. The best way to stay hydrated when you walk is with water.”
The right walking posture can help you walk faster and longer and prevent injury. Lift your spine, your eyes should be forward, shoulders down, back, and relaxed. Swing your arms naturally and freely as you step your feet lightly from heel to toe.
Where you go wrong
Heels are never a good choice for any exercise. If you plan to walk, it is important to wear the right attire for the activity. Wearing the wrong walking attire does not only slow you down but also causes injuries and makes the exercise unenjoyable.
“If your shoes are too loose, they will not be comfortable and very tight ones can rub and cause calluses. Find a pair of shoes that has a material that breathes but is water resistant, has a decent padding, snug enough to keep your foot from sliding, flexible and well-fitting to avoid bruises and corns,” Namyalo advises. Your clothes should be loose, comfortable, and breathable.
However, if it is cold, you may need warm clothes.
There may not be an ideal optimal speed when you are walking but Bwana recommends brisk walking. It is good for one to find an ideal walking pace where she will feel comfortable but still get a good workout.
“When you choose brisk walking, you should be able to hold a conversation easily and by the end of the walk, you should feel tired but not completely drained. Listen to your body and over time, the best pace is one you can maintain for the longest time and continue getting those great walking benefits,” he says.
Do a gentle stretch for your leg muscles (calves) after the walk to keep you flexible. Do not overdo it to the extent that you feel pain. Use a wall for help with your balance during the stretches and hold each stretch for 10-20 seconds. Do this for about 10 minutes.
If you dare gaze at your phone while walking, you will be headed for trouble. You might trip or twist an ankle. This happens a lot and many people have sustained injuries linked to phones. If you must check it, stop, get out of the way, and finish your business before walking again.