Maybe, maybe not, but walking may just be the closest thing we have to a “wonder drug.” Also, don’t clutch your pearls when your doctor suggests you do more of this free cardio exercise in 2022.
To manage her diabetes, Nteboheleng Mosiuoa (38) from Bloemfontein walks to maintain her heart health and regulate her metabolism.
“I prefer walking over running because I can do it easily. I started walking to take care of my health in 2018. I do consider myself an average walker, and regularly add a workout or two,” she tells Health For Mzansi.
Mosiuoa adds, “Walking improves my mood and it clears my head. It also helps to regulate my blood glucose level and regulate my weight.”
It is like a free gym membership!
Meanwhile, Selloane Khalane (39), an avid walker from Northriding in Johannesburg, tells Health For Mzansi that she walks for an hour at least five times a week.
“I love my chubby silhouette. I have been walking for seven years and have always been an active person. I also skip rope and do other home workouts to manage my weight and stay healthy,” she says.
Walking has also helped manage her mental health.
“Running and walking help me with overall weight loss and maintaining my body. It helps with stress relief and toning my body. Although running helps my body with losing weight faster, I prefer walking to avoid losing too much weight.”
Another Bloemfontein walker, Zama Lekhula (38), says he makes it his mission to walk at least five kilometres for five days a week – a health journey he started way back in 2016.
“I consider myself as a full-time walker, even in the midst of strict lockdown restrictions due to Covid-19, I was walking around my complex where I used to reside.
“And when I run, my body become lighter, and my sleeping patterns becomes stable as I rest longer. I become disciplined on my eating habits. I mainly walk in the afternoons, to take away my mind off things, especially after a hectic day,” Lekhula explains.
Walking is the plug
According to Limpopo farmer and medical doctor, Dr Vusi Khoza, walking for an average of 15 to 30 minutes a day can help to manage diabetes, hypertension and control arthritis. It is also considered an immune booster and gives you a much-needed mental boost.
“Running burns more calories per minutes than walking but requires more intensity and stamina. Both are effective for weight loss and heart health, depending on your individual goals. Physical activity, walking or exercise induces coordinated response of multiple organ systems.”
To access benefits of walking takes consistency, says a Pretoria-based fitness trainer, Nina Joubert.
“If you start by only doing five minutes a day, and keep that consistent, you are already doing more than you did prior. You can build that up slowly till you get to 30 minutes, but consistency is key.
“Movement promotes circulation and that can benefit someone that has an illness, provided that they are medically cleared to walk. It is generally not recommended to walk with a fever, or if you have a condition that can be exacerbated by walking.”
What happens when you walk?
While not as strenuous as weight lifting, walking can help to tone muscles, says Joubert. When muscles are engaged in the biochemical act of walking, it can help build some muscle, especially when walking up and down steep hills.
“The act of moving, and contracting of the muscle, acts like a pump for your lymphatic system*. This helps with the movement and ‘drainage’ of lymphatic fluid. The mild ‘stress’ on the heart and lungs, causes some adaptation. This builds cardiovascular fitness,” she says.
Walking is simple and easy she adds. “It has lower impact on joints, less prone to cause injury and it’s more accessible for people to do compared to running.”
Khosa shares six more benefits of walking:
- It lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
- It reduces the risk of heart disease.
- It lowers bad cholesterol.
- It reduces osteoporosis and ageing.
- It reduces the risk of some cancers, such as colon and breast cancer.
- It improves sleep and reduces stress, anxiety and depression.
Health For Mzansi term of the day
*Lymphatic system: It is a network of tissues, vessels and organs that work together to move a colourless, watery fluid called lymph back into your circulatory system (your bloodstream).