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Health benefits of regular walking habit

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While thinking of exercise, most people usually imagine jogging, cycling, swimming, push-ups, pull-ups, and all those heavy-duty physical activities. However, walking, being the simplest and the most accessible one of them all, is often ignored. Walking is such an exercise that people of all ages can do. It requires no special equipment, can be done anywhere, and can even fit into the busiest schedule of many. Walking offers the best benefits for your physical, mental and emotional health, whether just a random stroll or commuting to your workspace on foot.

Among the many health benefits of walking, cardiovascular health comes first. It strengthens the heart, improves blood circulation, helps lower blood pressure, reduces bad cholesterol (LDL), and increases good cholesterol (HDL). A quick 30-minute walk daily can reduce coronary heart disease by about 19%.

Walking is the easiest calorie-burning activity for maintaining fitness or body weight. Although the number of calories burned depends on body weight and walking speed, in general, a 160-pound person can burn more than 310 calories per hour by swift walking.

They say, "Prevention is better than cure." If you want to prevent painful and tenacious diseases like osteoporosis and arthritis, take up the habit of daily walking. It will increase bone density while helping maintain flexibility and balance. Studies show that walking for 30 minutes a day increases the activity of immune cells like B-cells, T-cells, and natural killer cells, building a healthier immune system.

This effortless exercise improves physical fitness and lifts mood. Walking, especially in natural environments, can greatly reduce stress. A nature walk helps lower the cortisol level, thus minimising anxiety, stress, and depression. It triggers the release of endorphins, the natural human mood elevator.

Walking can be particularly beneficial in busy cities like Dhaka, where severe traffic congestion significantly impacts people's time and productivity. Dhaka's traffic is unbelievable, leaving motor vehicles with an average speed of 7 kilometres per hour. Experts have warned us that if the transportation infrastructure and traffic management system are not improved with proper planning, the average vehicle speed will fall to only 4 kilometres per hour by 2035, which is slower than the average walking speed. Hence, walking to distances within limits can better utilise time. Walking to places also helps save money, so it has an economic advantage.

As there are few parks and open areas in densely populated countries like Bangladesh, people, especially from urban areas, may find it difficult to initiate this habit. Nevertheless, it can be initiated right on your street. But a few things, such as using the proper route, staying aware of the traffic, walking during off-peak hours, using pedestrian-friendly places, etc., should be considered for ease.

Tips for a beginner will start with choosing the right shoe. Walking in the wrong shoes will not only give you blisters and make your legs sore but also demotivate you to continue the initiative. So first, choose the shoe pair that provides support and cushioning and fits well. Then, maintain a good posture. Keep your head up, shoulders back and core engaged. Walk heel to toe. Ensure each step is smooth and steady.

Next, stay hydrated. Drink water before, during and after the walk. If there is excessive heat outside and walking is making you sweat a lot, remember that you are losing a lot of electrolytes from your body. So, take saline or electrolyte drinks and plain water per your body's needs. And last but not least, make it fun. Now, the definition of fun is subjective. Some people like to hear music while walking, some love socialising, while others prefer it the most when done in solitude.

According to science, walking in different parts of the day has distinctive advantages, such as the morning walk boosts energy and mood by releasing endorphins and serotonin and enhancing metabolism. It helps regulate your circadian rhythm, leading to quality sleep at night. So, if you are one of those people who are struggling to fix their sleep cycle, start practising morning walks. During the first few hours after sunrise, usually, the air is cleaner, and the streets are calm and quiet. Hence, if you want a chaos-free and serene walk, the morning can be the best time for you.

Harvard Health Publishing reported that people's physical performance and muscle function peak during the afternoon, making it the proper time to do vigorous walking. On a workday, a quick and short walk during lunchtime can clear your mind and motivate you to resume work. Additionally, a post-lunch walk can help with the energy slump. People with diabetes or metabolic issues can benefit best from walking after dinner as it promotes digestion and regulates blood sugar levels.

Although different parts of the day offer different sorts of benefits from walking, it also has a lot to do with personal preference. Not everyone might get a chance to walk at these times. However, consistency is the key. After starting a habit, the most difficult part is sticking to it and adopting it as a regular lifestyle.

Walking offers numerous scientifically backed benefits that improve overall health and well-being. Do it with your friends or alone; just get started and try continuing. After only a few weeks, you will be amazed to see the change in your sleep quality, food appetite, metabolism rate, and mental health.

 

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