Brisk walking is probably the very basic and easiest form of exercise that can be done anytime and at any place and it does not cost anything. You can even go walking within the safety of your home and can still clock an impressive mileage on daily basis. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.
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Brisk walking as a form of exercise has many health benefits that have been proven in many instances. Image source: Healthonics
Benefit of Walking
We all know that any exercise is healthy for the body and brisk walking is a form of exercise. Let’s look at some of the key benefits of brisk walking:-
1. Walking promotes brain health. When you walk, your heart rate and breathing rate increase, allowing oxygen to travel through the bloodstream more quickly. This not only strengthens the heart and lowers blood pressure, but also improves blood flow to the brain and overall brain health.
2. Walking boosts mood. As you walk, endorphins are released in the body. These are natural chemicals in the brain that act to relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve mood. Endorphins can reduce the risk of depression, especially if you are combining walking with another social activity, such as joining a walking group.
3. Walking improves quality of sleep. One study found that those who take regular walks were more likely to relieve insomnia than people who didn’t walk. Along with the endorphins released during walking, minimizing stress will allow you a more restful night’s sleep.
4. Walking strengthens bones, joints, and muscles. As with most exercise, walking strengthens muscles in the legs, arms, and abdominals, which can lessen arthritis pain. It has been proven to reduce the loss of bone mass for individuals with osteoporosis and can also keep joints lubricated, reducing deterioration.
5. Walking reduces fall risk. Because walking strengthens muscles in the legs and core, it can help improve balance and stability, which in turn greatly reduces the risk of falling.
6. Walking increases energy. Walking is an aerobic exercise that promotes blood flow and oxygen consumption, which reduces the incidence of disability among adults over the age of 65. Seniors can stay active and engaged in their communities, and in most cases, they can still perform activities of daily living.
7. Walking increases healthspan. Individuals who exercise regularly in their fifties and sixties reduce their risk of mortality by 35 percent. And because walking improves mood and promotes independence in older adults, it is an important part of a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle.
(Source: Nurse Registry)
Personally, brisk walking is just the break that I needed to keep actively moving whenever possible when I am working, sitting down in front of the laptop for hours.
Frankly, brisk walking is a very basic way to move the body and keep one active. After all, a short brisk walking periodically throughout the day is still better than not moving at all. It is easy and does not cost anything to do it.
To register a hit a healthy pace in the Samsung Health app, one needs to do brisk walking instead. Brisk walking is somewhere between running and walking casually. Then there is a “proper” way of brisk walking:-
Periodically check in with yourself and make sure you’re implementing the necessary steps to achieve proper posture until it becomes a habit.
Stand up straight. Visualize being tall and straight, like a tree. Don’t slouch or arch your back. Don’t lean forward or back. Leaning puts a strain on the back muscles as you walk, and you should avoid leaning except when on a hill.
When walking uphill, it’s alright to lean slightly forward (never backward) from the ankles. Walking downhill, you can also lean slightly forward or maintain a straight back. In both situations, you want to avoid leaning back or too far forward so that you don’t fall off balance.
Keep your eyes forward. Avoid looking down. Your focus should be about 20 feet ahead of you. This way, you will see your path and anything coming at you from the side.
Keep your chin up (parallel to the ground). This reduces strain on your neck and back. A proper chin position will also allow you to look ahead rather than down at your feet.
Let your shoulders be back and relaxed. Shrug once and allow your shoulders to fall and relax, slightly back. Loosening up the shoulders will help relieve tension and put them into a position to use good arm motion while walking. You can also do this at intervals during your walk to ensure you are keeping your shoulders relaxed.
Tighten your core. Your core muscles can help you maintain good posture and resist slouching and leaning. Keeping your stomach pulled in slightly (while still taking deep, full breaths) can help you maintain a good walking posture.
Keep your pelvis neutral. You want to make sure your hips are not tilting forward or back while you’re walking. Practice sticking your butt out, tucking it in, and then finding a natural middle. The middle is where you want to be. This will keep you from arching your back.
(Source: Very Well Fit)
When it comes to the right way of brisk walking, one problem I had is that my toes would turn to the outside when I walked. So in addition to yoga exercises, I keep in mind to push my toes inward when I walk and it worked to reduce the degree of the toes turning outwards.
Here’s an interesting video on a person who walked 10,000 steps every day for 30 days and managed to lose weight. Of course, keeping a close eye on the diet will greatly help in the reduction of weight. It takes time before one sees a real change in the waistline but weight wise it may not reduce much as fat weight may be replaced by muscle weight.
10,000 Steps Target
Open any walking app and it will recommend a minimum of brisk walking with 10,000 steps to be achieved in a day. Samsung Health app interestingly did not impose the same 10,000 steps of brisk walking instead, it started me with only 6,000 steps. To reach 200,000 steps in a month for the Samsung Monthly Challenge, one just needs to achieve a minimum of 6,700 steps daily instead of the recommended 10,000 steps daily.
So, is it necessary to do the minimum 10,000 steps daily?
Fitness tracking devices often recommend we take 10,000 steps a day. But the goal of taking 10,000 steps, which many of us believe is rooted in science, in fact rests on coincidence and sticky history rather than research.
According to Dr. I-Min Lee, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an expert on step counts and health, the 10,000-steps target became popular in Japan in the 1960s.
A clock maker, hoping to capitalize on interest in fitness after the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, mass-produced a pedometer with a name that, when written in Japanese characters, resembled a walking man. It also translated as “10,000-steps meter,” creating a walking aim that, through the decades, somehow became embedded in our global consciousness — and fitness trackers.
But today’s best science suggests we do not need to take 10,000 steps a day, which is about five miles, for the sake of our health or longevity.
(Source: NY Times)
And here’s another study on the 10,000 daily steps target:-
A 2019 study by Dr. Lee and her colleagues found that women in their 70s who managed as few as 4,400 steps a day reduced their risk of premature death by about 40 percent, compared to women completing 2,700 or fewer steps a day.
The risks for early death continued to drop among the women walking more than 5,000 steps a day, but benefits plateaued at about 7,500 daily steps. In other words, older women who completed fewer than half of the mythic 10,000 daily steps tended to live substantially longer than those who covered even less ground.
Another, more expansive study last year of almost 5,000 middle-aged men and women of various ethnicities likewise found that 10,000 steps a day are not a requirement for longevity. In that study, people who walked for about 8,000 steps a day were half as likely to die prematurely from heart disease or any other cause as those who accumulated 4,000 steps a day.
The statistical benefits of additional steps were slight, meaning it did not hurt people to amass more daily steps, up to and beyond the 10,000-steps mark. But the extra steps did not provide much additional protection against dying young, either.
(Source: NY Times)
Despite the fact that 10,000 steps daily is not mandatory to meet the daily targets, it is a good target to shoot on a daily basis although on average, one can only meet 8,000 steps on daily basis due to limited free time.
Having a health band like Garmin or Samsung or a pedometer app will greatly help to track the number of steps that one clocks on daily basis and how many more need to be clocked to meet the overall target. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels
Given that I have been keeping track of daily steps so to ensure I meet the minimum for the monthly Samsung Challenge. And I noticed this – 5 minutes of brisk walking will translate to an average of 500 steps which in turn is equivalent to 400 meters.
So to meet the 10,000 steps daily, all one needs to do is to spend 30 minutes of brisk walking in the morning and in the evening which will give about 6,000 steps. Then do 5 minutes of brisk walking in between when one takes a short break from work.
So frankly, the 10,000 steps daily target is achievable provided one is disciplined enough to set aside the required time to do the necessary brisk walking exercise. Personally the best record I managed to meet is 12,802 steps which I forced myself to do so to catch up on the missing steps from the previous days.
However, getting meeting the 10,000 steps daily may not mean anything to my overall objective of brisk walking in the first place, i.e. to reduce weight if calories burned from prolonged brisk walking are replaced by calories from food & drinks.
This is where I need to be careful considering that it is easy to load on additional calories when working from home.