Often, when people decide to embark on an exercise regime, whether for fitness, fat loss or rehabilitation, the first place they think of going is the gym (or pool, or their bike but you get the idea – sweaty exercise, grr). However, there is one form of exercise which is often overlooked in favour of its higher-octane counterparts.
Yep, I’m talking about walking. We do it pretty much every day without thinking about it, but it could hold the secret to achieving your health goals, and here are 5 reasons we should do more of it:
Making it the perfect exercise choice if you have joint injuries or pain. The weight-bearing element also means that it helps maintain muscle strength and bone density, leaving you less vulnerable to breaks.
Did you know that a brisk 60-minute walk (around 4.6 mph) can burn as many calories as a 30-minute jog? (around 6 mph) Walking is the underdog of the fat-loss scene and is much underrated. A brisk 60-minute walk 3 times a week can leave you just over 800 calories down, burning almost 1lb of fat in just a month (everything else being equal).
If you have cool clothing (I’m guessing you do) and a comfy pair of shoes (again, pretty much a given) then you’re good to go. No membership fees, fancy kit or expensive equipment necessary.
It’s very easy to fit walking into your daily routine. Consider getting up earlier and walking to work if you live close enough, walking the kids to school instead of driving, or setting aside some time each day for a stroll.
Another big tick is that the usual barriers don’t apply. No childcare? Take the kids with you (in a buggy or on a bike/scooter if they’re too little or reluctant walkers) No time? Go on your lunch break or talk your friends into a walk instead of meeting at a cafe/bar. Funds tight? It’s free – that excuse has no place here.
If you can recruit friends, a partner or kids, it can also help build your relationships. People find it easier to talk openly when they’re away from distraction and not in a face-to-face situation.
It’s very difficult to find a reason not to do it, and it’s fun and gives you headspace, making you less likely to want to make excuses in the first place.
Stating the obvious, right? But a recent study found that compared to people using the same amount of energy running, walkers experienced greater health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease, first-time high blood pressure and first-time high cholesterol. If that’s not enough encouragement to lace up your trainers and get out for a stride, then I don’t know what is.
We conducted a survey recently of people suffering from back pain and the effect exercise has on the level of pain experienced.
The type of exercise you should choose if you have back pain may vary according to your diagnosis, but here’s a quick rundown of things which are safe for the vast majority of back pain sufferers:
Pilates can help improve posture, core strength, flexibility and balance.
It involves slow, controlled exercise to work the whole body, but with a focus on the back and core muscles, making it great for people suffering with chronic back pain, as often the core and back muscles are weakened.
When you have back pain, there may be some more advanced moves which you may need to avoid.
Make sure you tell your instructor about your back so they can modify your routine.
A gentle, flowing yoga practice will help improve flexibility through stretching and relaxation techniques.
Using just your body weight, there is also an element which helps increase total body and core strength.
Again, make sure you tell your teacher about you back as there may be some moves which you should substitute.
Nikki at Urban Yoga holds lunchtime classes at Core Strength Studios.
The better supported your body is, the less pressure your back will be under.
By maintaining a strong frame, you can protect your back against pain and leave it less vulnerable to future attacks.
Free weights and functional training are great as they also work your core muscles, but be aware of moves such as burpees, kettlebell swings and other explosive moves which may aggravate your back.
Start gentle, and work your way towards more dynamic moves as you get stronger, and be very careful to use correct technique.
If in doubt, grab an instructor for some guidance.
As well as providing cardiovascular benefits, walking is ideal when you have back pain. When we move, our joints secrete a fluid to lubricate and keep them moving freely.
The movement when you walk will help the release of this fluid and make you feel looser and less stiff. In addition, your core muscles will be ‘switched on’ which helps maintain their strength which in turn helps keep your spine supported.
It’s also a low-impact workout which, if you have back pain, may be more comfortable.
To make it more of a workout, increase the pace or take in a few hills to get your heart pumping!