The author is the Health editor of The Manila Bulletin

If you are having difficulty sleeping, are moody, generally anxious, and feeling fat — it is time to take a walk. 

Walk around the house, in the garden, around the block, to the village convenience store.  Or go to YouTube and walk with Leslie Sansone, a very popular walking program which offers easy-to-follow low to high impact programs in 15-minute, 30-minute, to 50-minute sessions.  

To many people, including me, walking is the magic pill that always improves the mood, keeps the extra weight off, and according to experts, is good for the heart and bones, keeps the blood pressure down, and prevents many diseases.  It also makes you feel younger because you have a good balance and agility in your movement. 

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Benefits of walking

Harvard Health Publishing of the Harvard Medical School puts the benefits of walking more clearly: “In a report that included findings from multiple well-done studies, researchers found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent, cut the risk of dying by 32 percent. These benefits were equally robust in men and women. Protection was evident even at distances of just 5½ miles (about 8.8 kilometers) per week and at a pace as casual as about two miles (3.2 kilometers) per hour. The people who walked longer distances, walked at a faster pace, or both enjoyed the greatest protection.”

“The cardiovascular benefits of walking are biologically plausible; like other forms of regular moderate exercise, walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress. And if cardiac protection and a lower death rate are not enough to get you moving, consider that walking and other moderate exercise programs also help protect against dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, colon cancer, and even erectile dysfunction.”

How long should you walk? 

Experts, among them my personal trainers through the years, recommend a weekly walk of at least 150 minutes of moderate pace.  That’s about 30 minutes a day for five times a week.  You can cut a 30-minute session by two 15-minute sessions.  If you aim to lose weight, you have to walk about 200 minutes per week, plus make some changes in your diet.  

My rule is – walk faster, longer and more frequently if I want to lose weight — a 60 minute brisk walk three to four times a week always gives me happy results. 

To maintain my weight, I walk 30 minutes a day, three times a week. To train for a hike, I walk 60 minutes on a treadmill, following an uphill and downhill program, three times a week for eight weeks.

If I have absolutely no time to walk, I squeeze a 40-minute walk once a week to improve my mood.  That gives me better mood, a clearer mind, and better sleep. 

Walking has been part of my exercise routine for many years. Before the lockdown, I walked on a treadmill in the gym, at the UP Diliman campus, and around Intramuros, Manila.

Walking has brought me to many trails, most of them in the forests.  I’ve fallen in love with mountains that I do a major trek once a year, and a feel-good hike on the last Sunday of the year.  Being in the forests always gives me a good feeling and I discovered recently that is because of the benefits of “forest bathing.” (I’ll tell you about that next time.)

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Walking is an easy form of keeping fit.  Our bodies are built to walk, no special skill is necessary.  It won’t cost much to start on a walking program. If you have never exercised, you’ll just have to buy a pair of rubber shoes.  I’m sure you have a pair of shorts or pants and a T-shirt for the walk.  

If you have a smart phone, put in some music, connect the earphones, and you are on your way to a pleasant walk! 

Take a walk today.  There is no right or wrong time to walk.  I walk with Leslie at midnight. And then have a good sleep.

Take a walk. It will improve your mood and fitness level.

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