WALK THIS WAY
Movement is intrinsic to being human - we were made to move! However, we are increasingly becoming more sedentary, and with this raising, our risk of health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, back pain and arthritis is increasing. Walking is the perfect exercise to overcome this problem and what better place than New Zealand to put on your walking shoes and get moving. New Zealand provides access to incredible landscapes and has thousands of backcountry hikes and trails to explore; passing through diverse landscapes of native forests, beautiful lakes, tops of mountains and deep valleys.
Safe, easy and best of all free, walking benefits the whole body and is open to people of all ages, lifestyles and physical fitness levels. The benefits of walking are increasingly being promoted by governments and authorities around the world as a means of improving public health. The world health organisation recommends a total of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking, five days per week. Studies have identified a number of physical and emotional benefits from walking:
- Improving cardiovascular fitness – regular walking has many positive effects on your heart and circulation. It helps to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, strengthen and improve the efficiency of the heart, reduces the risk of having a stroke and promotes weight loss, which in turn reduces the workload on the heart. Walking is a low impact, weight-bearing exercise and compares favourably with other cardiovascular fitness activities.
- Improving musculoskeletal health – exercise and walking can help to relieve pain by increasing the strength, flexibility and stability of your bones, muscles and joints. It also releases endorphins, which have been proven to have a positive effect on reducing pain. People who already suffer from musculoskeletal pain and illness need not give up exercise, exercise can actually help to relieve pain and improve health. Walking is the ideal activity to reduce the pain and stiffness of arthritis and joint pain. With regular walking the muscles around the joint become stronger and help to stabilise that joint. Walking also helps to improve posture and reduce back pain. Often back pain sufferers are reluctant to take up walking, thinking that it can make the problem worse. In fact, it's the opposite. Walking strengthens your abdominal and core muscles, which help support your back and keeps the joints moving, preventing them from getting stiff.
- Weight management – Being overweight can affect your health with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and joint problems. It can also affect your mental health and confidence. Walking can help you to lose and control your weight.
- Sleep – Increasing your levels of activity can help you sleep better at night which improves your overall health and well-being.
- Mental wellbeing - Experts in the field of psychology have shown that walking, particularly in natural settings, is especially beneficial to our mental health. It distracts us from the worries of daily life, giving our minds a much-needed rest. Research has shown that exercise and walking can be an extremely effective treatment for depression, stress and anxiety as it releases endorphins that increase mood. It can also help to relieve the physical symptoms of stress such as muscle tension and headaches.
- For the best cardiovascular results, you need to walk fast but without overexerting yourself.
- Correct postural problems – good posture relies on symmetry. If there are imbalances in your walk/body, these can lead to injury and pain.
- Stretch regularly – perform simple stretches as part of a warm up and cool down targeting muscles in your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, shoulder girdle and spine
- Correct your breathing technique – many of us do not breathe deeply enough during exercise resulting in reduced oxygen intake and inefficient core stabilisation. Remember to stomach breath when possible.
- Set yourself goals – one of the best ways to get motivated and stay motivated is to set realistic and achievable goals. Whatever your goal, make sure that it relates to you personally or it will not provide the motivation to start and maintain a walking programme.
- If you want to maximise the benefits you get from walking, think about making other health decisions at the same time such as quitting smoking, adopting a healthier diet and cutting down on alcohol.
For more tips on improving your physical and mental wellbeing or discussing a health improvement walking plan please book an appointment with any of our highly-skilled Physiotherapists or Personal Trainers. They can provide you with a full musculoskeletal assessment including a biomechanical and postural analysis, breathing technique review, and stretching and strengthening programme that will help you walk safely and effectively to get the best out of your exercise and achieve your goal.