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How to walk your way to better health
Moving more helps create better body chemistry !
Now there are lots of ways to move more, but probably the easiest place to start is
It’s what humans do.
So walking is often recommended as a physical activity for the “less athletic”.
The benefits of walking
And it is an “EASY OPTION”……….
Sometimes TOO EASY. Classed as an aerobic activity, how aerobic it ends up being, does depend on the speed of the walk.
A slow leisurely walk, is less beneficial than speed walking.
The reality, you need to do more than just take a leisurely stroll to get the blood moving.
And if you’re old, sick or obese – getting up to speed, can quite literally never happen. Plus, there is always the possibility, that there is a misstep.
Strolling a long
So the “EASY OPTION” becomes a liability………
You end up ambling along, but the experience is NOT enough, to see meaningful benefits, from a physical activity perspective. To be counted as physical activity, what you’re doing needs to be considered moderate to high intensity.
Part of the problem is the nature of the exercise.
Walking is a leg centric process.
Only the legs are doing it
When you’re walking………….the muscles in the bottom half of the body, are putting in a strong effort, but the muscles in the upper body, are doing very little.
The uneven distribution of effort…… can cause negative vibes and dial down the overall chemical benefits, since only working muscles
- Take up sugar
- Burn calories
- Spew out beneficial chemicals such as VEGF.
But, walking can be put on steroids.
Walking on steroids
All it takes is a pole or two.
Introducing Nordic Walking.
So what is it ?
The origin of Nordic walking
Nordic walking, has it’s roots, in the mountains of Scandenavia.
Getting around on a snow covered mountain, requires some fancy foot work, donning a pair of skies, stops that SINKING FEELING. But, to actually move from point A to point B, you need to propel yourself forward.
Poles create the propulsion.
This is what people do, when they do cross country skiing.
The sport of cross country skiing
Speed is an issue when you’re competing….
Now to BE THE BEST, requires training.
Unfortunately, there is a limitation to the sport of cross country skiing ………. you NEED snow.
Eish ! A serious constraint if you live in Africa, like me !
The plan B
It is possible to mimic the cross country skiing motion……………. though Nordic walking.
It works for cross country skiers !
It helps serious skiers, up their game…… putting them in line to win medals and accolades, during the winter season.
But a few years ago, Nordic walking went main stream…
No snow or mountains required
All it takes is a set of relatively inexpensive poles, adjusted to your height and a little know how.
There are lots of videos on You Tube that can teach you the basics.
Adding poles, ups the game of mere mortals….
Walking for health
Numerous studies have shown, people who engage in Nordic walking – work harder i.e. they increase their energy expenditure.
This is data from a study done on 11 healthy obese ladies, after they had mastered Nordic walking. The maroon bars reflect how much energy was used when walking on a treadmill with the poles, the blue bars are without poles.
More energy “’burned” means less energy “stored”…
And it feels good too
It turned out, the ladies doing Nordic Walking did more than just get the juices flowing.
They enjoyed it !
When the researchers tracked their perceptions of how hard they were working i.e. their rating of perceived exertion, all reported the sticks make walking, especially walking up hill, easier.
It’s safer too
Studies suggest, injuries are pretty rare – clocking in at around 0.926 injuries per 1000 hours. Compare this with basketball and squash, which report around 14 injuries per 1000 hours.
The part of the body most likely to suffer an ouch.
The point, using poles while walking, means there is less chance of mis-steps ending in catastrophic tumbles.
And it’s cool !
Nordic walking a fashion statement
Let’s be honest, walking is not particularly fashionable – every dick, tom and harry does it. And the dick, tom and harries doing it, often do it, because they don’t have their own set of wheels, to get from point A to point B.
But, swinging a set of custom designed poles………….
Looks and feels a whole lot more hip.
Plus…………….. you’re outdoors. Soaking up the sun and experiencing nature. Hopefully.
NOTE : Walking down a sidewalk in peak hour traffic, whether it’s Nordic or not, is probably not a health move.
The benefits are wide reaching
To date, over 25 studies have confirmed the benefits of Nordic Walking.
It been shown to help in one way or another in
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary artery disease
- Peripheral artery disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Pain in general
- Breast cancer
- Parkinson’s disease
NOTE : Most of these studies are small and not always well designed, but the message is consistent.
Walking is GOOD. Nordic Walking is BETTER.
The soft exercise option
If you already walk, good for you…..
Take it up a notch, by grabbing a pair of poles and going NORDIC WALKING.
It is walking on steroids.
PS, If you’re not in the habit of doing anything TOO PHYSICAL, Nordic walking is a great “softer exercise option”, but if the poles are more than you can handle, just walk.
Walking on it’s own, helps to create BETTER BODY CHEMISTRY….
Officially you’re supposed to engage in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week, so pounding the pavement with Fido is a valuable health move
Walking is the ultimate way to move more – there is only one problem, you need to have somewhere to walk to. Does your neighbourhood have walkability ?
Not metaphorically. You need to find someone who will synchronize their gait with you and put one foot in front of the other, so they walk in time with you.