As a physiotherapist, I come across people of all age groups and from all walks of life. In reply to my question, ‘do you exercise regularly?’, I usually get told ‘I go for a walk’. This is a reply I often get from young, otherwise healthy people like you and me. But is walking really the right exercise you need? Moreover, really is walking enough
Walking, for most people is an almost-leisurely stroll around the park while they catch up with their friends or gossip on the phone. A walk can only be considered an aerobic exercise if the pace is brisk. When I say brisk walking, I mean you should be unable to complete a sentence while walking due to shortness of breath. So, if your walk around the park includes a healthy session on gossip, please reconsider whether this constitutes your hour of exercise.
A walk can be considered an appropriate exercise for an elderly individual, someone recovering from a long and debilitating illness or an extremely unfit individual looking to make lifestyle changes. It will also suffice as an exercise for a healthy young individual on the ‘cardio’ provided they maintain a healthy pace for atleast 40 minutes.
For healthy young adults, while walking is better than sitting glued to the computer, it is in no way sufficient for them to feel the real benefits of exercise or help them meet fitness goals. If you really enjoy your walks, please continue, but add some more workouts to compliment your exercise routine.
Exercise Routines that can compliment your walk:
- Intersperse your walk with short sprints. For example, in a 40 min walk, you can add 1 minute sprints every ten minutes. As time progresses, increase the time spent running or run more frequently during your walk. This will give you a very efficient cardio work out and also improve your heart rate in the long run.
- Do a few yogasanas before and after your workout. Suryanamaskar is a great example. It not only stretches the relevant muscles, it also makes you more flexible. Additionally, you can do few fast pace Suryanamskars before your walk as a warm-up and a few slow ones post the walk as a cool down. It will ensure you don’t get stiff and keep things interesting.
- For those with more ambitious fitness goals, alternate your walk with a session at the gym for weight training. Weight training is the best way to tone as well as build muscles. Weight training helps to strengthen bones, muscles as well as the heart and has numerous other benefits as well. In case going to the gym is difficult, weight training can be done at home by effectively using your own body weight, gravity and a few light weights.
- If you’re looking to have some fun, alternate or replace your walks with group exercises. Join an aerobic, step or dance class. In addition to giving you an effective cardio workout, these will stimulate your mind, improve your co-ordination and keep you motivated.
So, in answer to the question, walking is very rarely enough. There are a lot of other options out there. Consult a physiotherapist or a fitness trainer, set your goals and find the exercise that works the best for you!