After months of coronavirus-induced isolation it’s time to get your fitness back into gear and one way is – quite literally – to walk your way to better health.
With gyms closed, the only walking many of us have been doing is between the fridge and the couch, but you can only protect and provide for your family if you take care of yourself by staying fit and healthy.
That means it’s time to lace up those takkies, but make sure you don’t push yourself too hard too fast. Warm up by walking slowly and then pick up the speed. Don’t bounce or jolt when you walk or you could overstretch muscle tissue and cause microscopic tears, which lead to muscle stiffness and tenderness.
The wrong shoes or walking action can cause shin pain and blisters so make sure footwear provides enough cushioning. Take light, easy steps and make sure your heel touches down before your toes.
After your walk, gently stretch your leg muscles – particularly your calves and front and back thighs.
Hate the idea of exercising with a mask? Make sure it is made from a breathable fabric like cotton, and is not too tight or too thick. Or try using a buff, which is easy to roll down but can quickly be pulled up to cover your nose and mouth in two or three layers.
There are numerous health benefits associated with this underrated fitness activity, such as a lower risk for heart disease and cancer, less depression and fatigue, reduced stress on joints and accompanying joint pain, and improved circulation.
Walking can have just as much of a positive effect on your mental health: we are wired to connect with others and a long walk with a friend can soothe the soul.
Ask one or two neighbours or friends if they would like to join you – keep the recommended physical distance apart, of course.
Pace yourself so that you can talk and walk at the same time and it’s a great chance to catch up with the neighbourhood news.
If you live in separate areas, consider taking a “virtual walk” and hook up via a WhatsApp call en route. If you have a GPS device or step tracker, challenge each other to see who can cover the most distance on their “separate yet together” experience.
A solitary meander can be equally meaningful, particularly if you focus on being in the moment - apps like Calm and Headspace have guided walking meditations.
Don’t want to venture outside yet? Count the number of paces you need to walk between each room in your apartment, or to go round your house, and build your own “lockdown” circuit.
Although 10 000 steps a day is a worthwhile target, any exercise is better than none so start where you are and take it from there. If, for example, you currently clock 4 000 steps a day, a new 30-minute walk is likely to add on around 3 000.
Walking burns calories too: 10 000 steps will trim off 250 and 600 calories, while a 30-minute walk will use up between 100 and 200 calories.
Plus, the more you weigh and the less fit you are, the more calories you burn. Yes, that’s right: it has the most benefit for individuals who are overweight and out of shape, which is quite a motivation if you’ve been wanting to shed a few kilograms.
Before you know it, you may be itching to stride out for longer, take a hike or perhaps step it up and run. If you are starting from scratch, however, take it slowly and then move onto a combination of walking interspersed with just a few minutes of running.
It’s also wise to check with your doctor before you start any exercise programme if you have knee, ankle or back issues, are overweight or haven’t exercised in a long time.
As the old adage goes, you have to learn to walk before you can run!