What you need to know:
- Walking is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. Just 38 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance.
The incidence of premature death from non-communicable diseases (NDCs) is worrying at 33 percent of all deaths in Uganda, according to the World Health Organisation. These morbidities are largely caused by changeable risk factors such as unhealthy eating habits and physical inactivity. Diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases are all on the rise and one of the easiest ways to stave them off is by talking regular walks.
And according to new research findings, walking for just 38 minutes each day is all one needs to be in the safe zone. Studies show that a 38-minute casual walk will cover about 2.8 kilometres and amount to around 4000 steps, which is the magic number to place you in the safe zone according to new findings.
While it is well-known that walking promotes good health, it has been unclear how many steps one should take regularly to get the best results.
To find out, researchers in Poland studied data from 17 studies involving 226,889 people that were followed for about seven years each to assess the health impacts of different daily step counts.
The findings, which were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, suggested that walking at least 3,967 steps a day started to reduce the risk of not just catching the NDCs but also reduced the risk of dying from any cause. The study also found that each increase of 1,000 steps increased one’s protection by 15 percent.
More walks, the better
The lead researcher, Maciej Banach, a professor of cardiology at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland, said the study confirmed that the more one walks, the better.
“We found that this applied to both men and women, irrespective of age, and irrespective of whether you live in a temperate, subtropical or subpolar region of the world, or a region with a mixture of climates,” Banach said.
“In addition, our analysis indicates that as little as 4,000 steps a day are needed to significantly reduce deaths from any cause, and even fewer to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease.”
He added that they did not see any diminishing effect or risk plateau, so the more one walked, the better.
Banach says: “In a world where we have more and more advanced drugs to target specific conditions such as cardiovascular disease, I believe we should always emphasise that lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, might be at least as – or even more – effective in reducing cardiovascular risk and prolonging lives.”
According to the World Health Organisation, insufficient physical activity is now the fourth most frequent cause of death in the world, with 3.2m deaths a year attributed to it.
First hand testimony
Joseph Beyanga, fell in love with walking after his brave trek to Bushenyi District in western Uganda in March 2022. His walks started as a way to create awareness about road safety. He says when he came back, he was so addicted to feeling so energised from the walk that he started taking regular walks. He walks at least three times a week.
In February this year, Beyanga walked to Mbale City in eastern Uganda for the same cause. In the 18 months since the walk to Bushenyi, he has walked a total of 4,000 kilometres.
“I have never felt so good. Frankly, I feel better at age 46 than I felt at age 30 because of walking. Walking has been so impactful to my health that in January, I did a body age test and the result was that I have a 24-year-old’s body,” Beyanga says.
He says since he started walking regularly, his body is able to take on tasks that his mind conjures up, including his walking pace, endurance while exercising, jumping, and even throwing things on target.
“There was a time, before I started walking, when football had started watching me, instead of me watching it. I would sit in front of the TV and start dozing mid-match. Afternoons at work were punctuated with feeling tired or dizzy sometimes. But today, after eighteen months of walking regularly, I never feel tired. I sleep when I decide to and I wake up when I want to. I love to sleep for six uninterrupted hours but if my sleep gets cut short at four hours, for instance, I will not spend the whole day feeling as though i did not sleep enough,” he says.
About making time for the regular walks, Beyanga says although many people think they cannot find the time to walk regularly, knowing the many benefits it brings to one’s life will encourage one to find the time. Now, he plans his time around his walking sessions because he has trained his mind.
Beyanga adds that he knows colleagues whose lives have changed because of regular walks, including loss of weight among others.
Warm up and cool down after walking
● The best way to warm up is to walk slowly. Start each walk at a leisurely pace to give your muscles time to warm up, and then pick up the speed.
● Afterwards, gently stretch your leg muscles, particularly your calves and front and back thighs. Stretches should be held for about 20 seconds.
● If you feel any pain, ease off the stretch. Do not bounce or jolt, or you could overstretch muscle tissue and cause microscopic tears, which lead to muscle stiffness and tenderness.
● It is best to dress lightly when you do physical activity. Too many layers of clothes can increase sweating and build up body temperature, making you uncomfortable during a walk or possibly cause skin irritations.
● A gradual cool-down will also prevent muscular stiffness and injury.