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Saturday, September 1, 2001

Weight ‘n’ Walk

It’s the easiest form of exercise, the most effective and the one that costs
 you nothing. Take a walk and see for yourself, urges Bindu Mathew

Do you know walking is one of the best fitness activities to keep your body in great shape and your mind in best form? It can help you lose weight, it’s good for your heart, and the risk of injury is virtually nil. And yet, it’s so easy. Because after eating and sleeping it’s the next most natural thing for us. So whether you are eight or eighty years old, walking is something you can do. Its good for all of us.
There’s a slight drizzle? (Actually your bed is too cosy, too warm). Your alarm didn’t ring in the morning? (You heard it and ignored it, right?) You slept late last night? (An hour less wouldn’t make too much of a difference). You had guests? You can’t get up so early in the morning… hmmm… excuses. 
Well, that’s one thing about walking – you just don’t have too good an excuse. Because, walking has the most flexible schedule. You can walk at eight in the morning. Or seven in the evening. Or at 10 pm, after a good dinner. Although I’d still recommend a morning walk (nothing like a brisk morning walk of about 45 minutes to start your day with), an evening walk is not bad, neither are the post-dinner walks. It’s a great way to keep your body energised and leave you feeling good. 
So remember, even if you miss your morning march, there’s always the evening saunter or the night ramble. So, for a start, decide what time is most suitable for you. You could change your timings according to your convenience. Next, you need to decide where. Some people prefer parks, some like quiet and empty roads, some like grounds, while some vouch for a treadmill in a gym.
Rina, a college student, goes to Cubbon Park every morning. “I initially started going to Cubbon Park because it was very close to my house. Now, even after shifting to a house that’s more than 5 km away, I ride all the way just to walk for an hour here. The crowd is good, there’s a lot of greenery and you don’t need to bother about vehicles screeching or honking every second!” There are others who make smart choices. “Every night, after dinner, I walk for about half an hour on my terrace,” says Kapil, who works in an ad agency. “It helps avoid sleeping with a heavy stomach and I sleep like a baby.”
There are some other things to keep in mind when you set out. Your posture and your gait. Keep your head up and centered between your shoulders, your back erect and shoulders back and down. Lift your chest and tighten your abs. Your arms should be bent at 90 degrees and your hands loosely cupped. Swing them back and forward, not from side to side. Power your movements from your hips rather than your thighs but keep your hips loose and natural. Take short, fast strides that still feel natural rather than awkward.
Rome was not built in a day. So don’t think of a 10 km stretch on the first day. Start with 1 or 2 km. Slowly increase the distance, your body will build up the stamina and you won’t feel too tired. 
It’s good to have a steady pace, not too fast, nor too slow. And make sure you keep it up. Start slow (warm up) and increase the pace as you go on. Make sure you decrease the pace slowly by the time you are about to wind up. 
Then, make sure you wear comfortable clothes. Clothes that don’t cling to your body or make you feel conscious. And a comfortable pair of good sports shoes (no shoes with heels please) to go with it. Make sure you don’t wear any jewellery (you don’t want to attract chain snatchers, do you?). 
That’s another good side to walking. It’s something that doesn’t cost you a lot. All you need is a pair of shoes, comfortable clothes and you’re ready to go. 
Walking is like a pep tonic for the day, while being a good and reliable source of exercise. Says Gayatri, a young working woman, “Though I need to get up a bit early, about 6 am, I really enjoy walking. It makes me feel fresh, has helped me lose a lot of weight and it keeps me glowing for the day.” Mohan, a software pro, working for an MNC says, “Being a desk job, I get absolutely no exercise. Walking is the only thing that keeps me refreshed.” 
If you can combine walking with some other daily chore, it becomes a lot easier. Walk your dog, or go walking to the milk booth in the morning. Mr Rajan, a retired bank employee, buys fresh vegetables from the market, everyday on his way back after a walk. “That way I can’t afford to miss too many walks, can I?” he says, smiling. While Thomas, a college student walks to church. 
One could go on, but walking too has a flip side. The results are not very quick. It won’t turn all those lose flabby tires into firm sinews in just a day. You’ll have to be patient and wait a little while longer, because the effects are slower. But they are definitely more sustained. “I took a whole year but the wait was worth it!” says Ajay, a marketing professional.So make sure you don’t give up walking after a week. You need to continue it. Because it does take longer to lose weight on a ‘walking programme’ than it would with some other forms of exercise. Reema, a housewife, managed to lose about four kgs in a matter of a month and a half. “Initially it was a bit disappointing, but once I started losing weight I never wanted to give up”, she says. 
Some people get easily bored with walking. But there’s a solution, again. If you like music, make sure a walkman is a part of your walking attire. If you enjoy talking, take a companion along. You won’t realise how an hour flew past. If you are the solitary walker, make sure you change your route regularly – different people, new buildings, and different scenes help reduce boredom.
Try humming a tune and change the rhythm of your walk according to your music. Observe everything around you. The green trees, blue sky, birds, squirrels, dogs… then people who are on their walking sprees... It’s good fun, actually. Before you know it, you’ll be an addict. I know of many walkers who get so addicted, they don’t mind even sacrificing reading the newspaper if they run out of time. Because, they can’t miss their very own, exclusive half hour of happiness. So, now you can open the gate to your good health with your gait! 

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