Being a regular runner, I'm used to being active. So you can imagine my horror when a recent fall resulted in a swollen and painful ankle.
A trip to my GP confirmed my worst fears, a torn ligament and a horrific prescription of no running for 6-8 weeks! Aside from being in pain, I was gutted that I wouldn't be able to throw on my running shoes and hit the road. So, leg aloft, I scoured the Internet looking for alternative exercises I could do during recovery. The activity which came up time and time again was simple – walking.
Taking a nice daily stroll is said to be one the best forms of keeping fit for all ages. But this simple exercise is particularly beneficial to the more mature person because of its low impact, making it less strenuous than other forms of exercise.
Fitness expert, *Tayo Adekeye, who is very supportive of walking says 'As we age we start to lose our muscle and bone strength, the weaker our muscles and joints get, the more likely we are to have aches and pains and we also become more prone to falling. Remaining active as you get older means you are more able to lead an independent life."
Walk it off!
As people age their metabolism slows down and we end up piling on the pounds, even if we don't change our diets. To combat this we need to exercise regularly to burn off those calories and keep the weight down. I looked at how many calories walking v running burns and was astounded to find that walking burns off almost as many calories as jogging, and is said to be just as effective.
Based on a person weighing 136lb (9 stones):
Running burns 103 calories in 10 min (1 mile at 6 mph)
Walking burns 68 calories in 20 min (1 mile at 3 mph)
Only 35 calories in it. Impressive, isn't it?
As well as helping to keep you trim and toned, walking has a host of other health benefits including reducing the risk of:
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer's disease
- Some cancers
- Type 2 diabetes
Other benefits include:
- Boosting vitamin D levels (if walking in sunshine), an important vitamin most Brits are deficient in
- Reducing the risk of developing osteoarthritis and osteoporosis by strengthening the bones and joints
- Reducing stress levels – exercise releases endorphins in your brain, which will raise your spirits and give you a boost!
- Help you sleep better
What you need to get started
The great thing about walking is that it's absolutely free. All you'll need is a good pair of trainers or walking shoes, loose fitting clothes or sportswear. If you've got a Smartphone you can download a free walking app, which will track calories, pace, distance and path.
'To reap all the health benefits of walking', says Tayo, 'it needs to be of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Once you've mastered this level, you can try to aim for a power walk where you use your arms by swinging them back and forth to push your pace even faster. If you're new to walking, start with a 10 or 15 minute walk daily, once you get comfortable with that increase your time by around 5% every month. And after a long walk, make sure you taper off the walk by slowing down your pace to cool down.'
Making it a habit
Walk every day if you can, but if haven't got the time you could incorporate walking into your routine in other ways – walk to the shops instead of taking the car, get off a bus stop before and walk the rest of your journey, use stairs instead of the lift. Even walking two or three times a week around your local park is better than no activity at all.
Just to be on the safe side
Whilst walking is deemed as one of the safest forms of exercises to take up, do consult your GP before starting any new physical activity. Listen to your body. If you can only walk a short distance to begin with, then that's fine. We're all different and have varied fitness levels. Walking isn't a competitive activity - walk for as long as is comfortable and enjoyable for YOU.
If you'll be exercising alone, take a mobile phone with you for emergencies.
Try to stay on well lit roads if walking in the evenings or along woodlands, and do wear reflective clothing.
Click here to read more about the health benefits of walking!