Many years ago, in my teens, I used to be a runner. I wasn’t an elite or even club athlete, but I used to go out plodding round the streets of my home town, and a couple of times a month me and my friend Steve would head off for a race – anything from 10k up to half marathon. But now I am older, and I want to get fitter again, running just does not appeal. And so I have decided to take up walking, and am going to attempt power walking some of the time.
Power walking can be an effective way of getting fit, and staying fit. It is possible to burn calories fast, to aid weight loss, although this is quite a bit less than if you were to go jogging. However, jogging can cause aches and pains, as well as serious injuries, to your joints, knees and shins. As power walking can strengthen your bones, improve your cardiovascular system and tone your muscles, it becomes a much more viable fitness option for a lot of people.
Now first things first, I walk a reasonable amount anyway. I don’t drive, which is unusual these days, so use public transport to get to work, and often walk between the various points around town that I need to get to. It’s not unusual for me to do 6,000 steps in a day without really trying.
However, since I left a retail position at the age of 18, I have had office jobs ever since, save a bit of part-time bar work in my late teens. When I was much younger this wasn’t an issue – I still played football, I had lots of energy, and generally didn’t notice any side effects of an ever increasing sedentary lifestyle.
But then time caught up. I hit 40, and although I play indoor bowls (yes, it is exercise!) I generally don’t do any other sport or exercise. I used to love playing tennis, football, athletics generally, and pretty much any sport. I try to encourage my 2 daughters but alas they find sport boring, which means it is very difficult to entice them outside with me for a game. I still have hopes for my youngest, but I think I am fighting a losing battle.
I don’t live with my daughters any more, as me and their mother split up many years ago. But I have met someone since, Nicky, and my longer walks are done every other weekend with her and her dog, Paco. We love to go out in the country for a couple of hours, often seeking out new routes suitable for dog walks, and have even combined a night away celebrating a birthday with a long walk somewhere new.
Nicky can set quite a tough pace at times – she is a few years younger than me, and with a more active job, has not yet hit the slowing down process that I seem to have. So yes, occasionally (actually quite often) I am left trailing behind as we go up hills, and so I need to work on my fitness and speed in order to catch up.
And so I have decided to incorporate some power walking into my week. Whether it be early mornings, or after work, I need to get out and start pumping my arms and walking faster.
The benefits of power walking
- Reduces tension, stress, and anxiety, thus enhancing mental well being.
- Tones and strengthens muscles.
- Improves flexibility.
- Aids management of weight and reduces fat.
- Boosts your immune system.
- Relieves the symptoms of premenstrual tension.
- Increases bone strength.
- Reduces the risk of cancer.
- Improves cardiovascular system, which benefits the heart.
- Can be sociable.
- Aids your skin health and helps detoxification.
- Improves sleep (this has been a big issue for me in the past).
- Eases the pain of arthritis.
- Reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- Helps you stop smoking and encourages healthy eating.
- Improves energy levels and self esteem.
- Relieves back pain and improves your posture.
(This list was compiled from Walking for Fitness by Nina Barough).
Ok, so if you have just read that list like me, you may wonder why you aren’t out there now! Every New Year we promise ourselves we are going to get fitter, but we need to commit to that promise. We say we are going to eat healthier too, but we still crave cakes (my weakness), chips, burgers, sweets. So in order to really adopt power walking and stick to it, we need to change our lifestyle.
And a change in lifestyle is something that very few can stick to for any length of time. But if you are serious about joining me, take another look at the list above of the benefits of power walking – it really does make sense that if you want to reap those benefits, you select a form of exercise that is easy, won’t cost you a fortune every month, and you can stick to.
Will power walking improve my posture?
Once you adopt power walking as your means of improving your health, and you learn the correct process in power walking, you will soon notice that your posture will improve. All these hours we spend in front of a computer at our desks leads to poor posture and tension in our neck and back as we jut our head forward towards the screen.
When you start to power walk try to lift your chest, hold your relaxed shoulders backwards, hold your head up, which will extend your neck. Do NOT look at the ground! This will put the spine in it’s most normal position.
When your feet are firmly on the ground, the heel should line up with the back of your knee. Tilt ever so slightly forward with your hips, and try to keep your bottom tucked in.
Can I improve my cardiovascular system by power walking?
Blood will start to pump round your body more efficiently, feeding your organs and muscles, making them work all the harder. You will start to use many muscles in your arms, legs, and body that have been neglected. As you continue you will improve your cardiovascular system, which means that you will get less tired with the more that you walk, and your endurance will soar.
Not only will you be exercising and feel good, you’ll have so much energy spare to tackle those household chores that you used to put off as you were so tired!
Can power walking prevent illness?
As you place weight on your bones correctly whilst walking, this action will strengthen them, thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis in later life.
Walking for just 30 minutes every day will increase your immune system, which will help you avoid illnesses from the common cold through to certain cancers and heart disease.
A lack of sleep can affect you in so many ways, but particularly make you stressed and anxious, maybe even leading to depression. As you walk more you will soon find that sleep becomes easier, and you will be getting good quality sleep too.
So power walking, especially if you can get out into nature, can help relieve stress, depression and anxiety.
So there you go. If, like me, age and a sedentary lifestyle has crept up on you, and whilst maybe not taken you by surprise, but made you crave for those younger days when you had more energy and were fitter, then power walking could do you the world of good.
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