Great Britain

Dr Zak: Just a 10 minute walk can make a difference

WALKING is one of the simplest form of exercises, requiring nothing more than being blessed with the use of your limbs and a decent pair of shoes.

So simple perhaps, that many have dismissed it entirely as a form of exercise, preferring complicated, time consuming gym routines that eat into an already busy timetable to the point where they often end up abandoned.

Yet what do you do when time is of the essence, you aspire to a healthy mind in healthy body, and given the current circumstances, you can’t rely on the gyms being open? The answer might lie in walking.

Many auspicious bodies advise that you aim for 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, split into periods of 20 minutes or more. Yet the benefits of walking can be realised in as little as 10 minutes a day, which hopefully will inspire those for whom the thought of half an hour initially seems too much.

Walking on its own is less likely to appeal to persons wishing for a highly muscular physique, but it may be the only form of cardiovascular exercise you need. There are numerous pros, from increased mobility and a reduction in joint pains, through to heightened creativity and a greater sense of purpose.

Studies have demonstrated that movement can lessen the pains of arthritis by building up the muscles round worn joints.

Walking is as good as any other form of exercise for persons suffering anxiety and/or depression, and is recommended in the majority of literature as a self-help tool in addition to counselling and medication.

It has been demonstrated that doing just one thing a day every day gives you a greater feeling of being organised, allowing you to achieve more.

Walking could be foundation stone upon which you build your greater successes.

Imagine that half an hour stroll at lunchtime as your time to relax and unwind, rather than reaching for the instant hit of another coffee to keep you going.

Regularly performed, walking will help to bring down raised blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. While you may not notice a great deal of weight loss (the average 30-minute walk at three miles per hour burns roughly 200 calories), you may find that the weight you carry round your middle lessens. It is this weight, distributed round and in the abdominal organs, that contributes to reduced insulin sensitivity and increased risk of diabetes, so shedding this or even some, will undoubtedly be a good thing. Plus, you’ll look trimmer, and the positive comments will hopefully motivate you to continue.

As we get older, it often becomes a case of “use it or lose it”, for both mind and body. Regular walking is associated with increased cognitive function and reduced risk of dementia. As a weight bearing exercise, it will help to counteract the reduction in bone mineral density and muscle bulk that is an inevitable part of the ageing process. Regular walkers are less likely to fall as they have greater proprioception (sense of self movement and body position).

Several apps and websites exist as to the correct way to walk, but so long as it’s not causing you any discomfort or pain, chances are you’re already performing it correctly. “Head in neutral” and “shoulders back” seem to be much repeated phrases, but just doing what comes naturally to you may be the best way to enjoy the experience. If an exercise causes pain, you may need to revisit your technique.

There has been much made of achieving 10,000 steps a day, but the beauty of walking should really be in the journey and the sights and sounds it affords, as opposed to the end destination. Benefits have been shown from “as little” as 4,400 steps. While step counters may be a motivational tool for some, there is the very real possibility of becoming a slave to them and feeling like you haven’t achieved if you don’t get to an arbitrary number.

It is advised that you do some form of strength conditioning twice a week, in addition to regular cardiovascular exercise. By being creative, walking can be fitted into your routine in such a way that it doesn’t seem regimented and that you may even look forward to it, either on your own as a form of “me time”, or with friends and family (rules permitting) to enjoy the social benefits as well.

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