Every weekday morning, like clockwork, either Kailash Rajdev or Kalpesh Mehta send a group text to their friends, “Walk 6:40”. The two Kolkata-based businessmen, now in their early 40s, had got so caught up with their work all through their thirties that they’d never thought once about exercise.
A couple of years ago, with their respective businesses flourishing, they turned their attention to their health and realized that they had put on a lot of weight and needed to do something about it. Though both have flirted with the idea of going to a gym and running, the only thing they do in terms of exercise is the 30-40-minute morning walk three to five days a week.
Also Read: Why walking 10,000 steps is not going to make you fitter
They aren’t alone in this walking habit. Hundreds of thousands of men and women can be spotted walking in parks and promenades across the country early mornings and late evenings, when the weather is at its most pleasant.
But is walking, on its own, sufficient exercise to help you lose weight, improve your health, reverse lifestyle diseases like heart ailments and diabetes and make you fit? Well, to be clear, walking does have its benefits, but on its own it won’t help you achieve too many health or fitness goals.
Also Read: How regular exercise can help you battle diabetes
“Walking is underrated,” says coach and nutritionist Shannon Beer. “A 30-minute walk goes a long way in ensuring an active day vis-a-vis a sedentary one with no activity at all. Walking is most certainly better than no exercise at all.” A study published in the journal Diabetes Research And Clinical Practice in January 2006 found that that “an increase of regular physical activity equivalent to 45 minutes of walking 3 days/week may suffice to improve systolic and diastolic blood pressure, lipid metabolism and BMI in patients with type 2 diabetes”. However, the study found that walking did not have any effect on glucose metabolism.
Public Health England carried out a review in 2018 which found that walking is good for the heart and improves blood circulation. However, it did nothing for muscle and bone strengthening, nor did it improve balance, which are crucial for health and future wellbeing. Strengthening and balance activities help prevent falls, improve mood, sleeping patterns, increase energy levels and reduce the risk of an early death, the review stated.
Also Read: How to get the most out of your summer workouts
Celebrity coach, and founder of Kosmic Fitness, Gagan Arora, says that for someone who doesn’t even walk, the mere act of standing up is an exercise. But is standing exercise enough? Who are we kidding? “Similarly, come to think of it, walking is a baseline movement for our entire life system…It’s a pity that we consider walking as an exercise. Things have come to this only because we do not walk as much as we should all day, every day,” Arora adds.
Walking has enormous benefits of its own and everyone ought to clock 7,000-10,000 steps a day, say medical and fitness professionals. But if, like Rajdev and Mehta, you make walking your one and only exercise, you would be stuck at the same point in your fitness journey, explains Arora. “There are other parameters that need to be trained and they have more benefits than walking. Both walking and other exercises should have equal weightage in your life and one must continue walking in addition to playing sports and doing other forms of training like strength, flexibility, mobility, agility, etc.,” he says.
Also Read: How to return to fitness training after a break
Also, there is always the risk of people getting bored of walking as it is a low intensity cardio workout. For best results and in order to keep yourself motivated, you need to add variety to your fitness regimen and add other workouts. These could be anything you may enjoy, like mobility and strength training, running, cycling, swimming, aerobics, Zumba or kick-boxing. “Adding these workouts would enhance your overall wellbeing and your gait would also improve thanks to these other workouts,” says Arora.
According to him, the ideal weekly exercise-to-walk ratio should be walking 7,000-10,000 steps in addition to strength training twice a week, flexibility thrice a week and a moderate cardio workout a couple of times a week. “Jotting a plan with a coach or physio who knows your current fitness levels and medical history is a great idea as one needs to mix and match sensibly,” Arora suggests.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.
Also Read: Stay fit and cool this summer with these great activities