Physical Health

The Simplest Way to Significantly Improve Your Health

August 16, 2012

It’s simple and it’s free. You can do it alone or with others, and you can fit it into your daily routine easily. Its physiological and psychological benefits are practically endless.

We’re talking about walking. That’s right–just good ol’ walking.

Walking is something we underrate. But in reality? Most people don’t do nearly enough of it.

That explains the recurring magazine covers urging us to use our legs. “Drop 20, 30 Pounds With Our Walking Plan!” And yet, two generations ago, no one emphasized walking the way we do today. What changed?

Our lifestyle. It was only 100 years ago that 85% of the labor that went into all products produced in the US was manual. We walked everywhere. Only in the second half of the 20th century did most Americans own cars.

Walking and muscle-building were built into our days. We were farmers, assembly line workers, or builders. But today’s high-tech (and not to mention, high-stress) world has changed that completely.

Scientists have concluded in countless studies that exercise is essential for good health and disease prevention. Walking, when done regularly and properly, helps prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, many cancers and depression. Movement is essential for both weight control and weight loss.

When most people think of exercise, they envision gyms and health clubs with lots of equipment and added expense. Exercise is also perceived as strenuous and time-consuming. Walking is a way to get in your exercise without any of the above baggage.

A good way to make walking (and socializing) part of your daily routine is to set a time to walk with a friend or family member. Enjoy the company!

So how often should you walk? At what pace? The answer depends on your personal goal.

If weight loss is your goal, then you should walk every day. If cardiovascular fitness is what you’re looking for, then every other day (4 times a week) should be enough.

Obviously–barring any physiological contraindications–the longer and faster you can go, the more beneficial your walks will be. But be careful that you don’t overdo it! People who have been sedentary must build up gradually. It is essential the before you begin a walking program, you visit your doctor for a complete medical evaluation. Once you have the approval of your physician, you can begin.

Here are some tips to kick-start your walking regimen:

  • Start at a comfortable pace, walking as though you are slightly late for an appointment. Use the “talk test.” If you can’t say your name three times in a row, you are pushing too hard. You should aim for a minimum of 3.5 miles-per-hour (5.6 kph).
  • For those of you who want to work up to a power walk, you will want to eventually reach 4.5 mph (7.2 kph) or more.
  • The recommended minimum time for walking is 30-40 minutes; however, if you are a beginner, start off slowly and gradually build up to that amount.
  • A good, sturdy pair of proper walking shoes is essential. If you don’t have proper shoes or your shoes are worn out, you probably will suffer some type of discomfort or pain and even injury in the lower extremities. Typically, shoes need to be replaced about every 400-500 miles of walking.
  • Maintain good posture while you are walking and look straight ahead. Swinging your arms will increase your caloric burn greatly, but make sure your arms are going in a forward direction and not crossing in front of you.
  • Make sure to take precautions in the summer months to start early in the day or do your walking toward the evening hours. In the winter, if you want to brave the cold, dress appropriately. Gloves and warm sweat clothes are a good idea. Either a hood or ski hat will help you retain your body heat, which escapes through your head. Be careful to stay hydrated even though it’s cold. If you want to work out in the rain, be sure to wear waterproof exercise wear.
  • Take an mp3 player with you and listen to music or a shiur (Torah class). For many, this is just a time to let your mind relax.
  • Remember to drink plenty of water before and after your walk.

If you’re in Israel, take advantage of our beautiful weather where the climate is usually conducive to outdoor activity.

Autumn is just around the corner. As the weather cools, take the opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air and the beautiful trees and flowers that Hashem has put on this earth for our benefit. After all, what could be a greater assurance of success than partnering with the Borei Olam, the Creator of this world, in this important endeavor?

There is no better time to start than now.

 

Alan Freishtat is an A.C.E. certified personal trainer and a lifestyle fitness coach with over 17 years of professional experience. He is the co-director of the Jerusalem-based weight loss and stress reduction center Lose It!  He can be reached at 02-651-8502 or 050-555-7175, or by email at alan@loseit.co.il.