Walking rules as the inmates emerge from lockdown
Apart from saving your sanity in these crazy times, walking is also really good for you physically, experts say.
Yesterday, 1 May, the inmates were out of prison. At 6am residential areas around South Africa came alive as people emerged tentatively and then enthusiastically from their homes into a lovely autumn morning.
It’s probably the same sort of scene that greets North Americans when groundhogs, grizzly bears and other animals emerge from their winter hibernation. Places once seemingly utterly devoid of habitation are suddenly teeming with life.
In the days before lockdown (…remember them?) it was possible to go walking in our quiet little residential suburb and not see another soul. Here, we were practicing social distancing long before it became a thing.
Yesterday it looked as though the Olympic 20km Race Walking event had come to town. There were a few joggers and even a super-keen type who was running with a heavy backpack, but the vast majority were walking. Faces I’ve never seen before in my 13 years here were walking. Entire families I never knew existed were walking up and down my road in a state of near-bliss.
Give it a week and the moaners will want more
Now it’s all new and exciting, of course. A friend who went walking in his part of Gauteng suburbia said yesterday was as exciting “as walking on the beach for the first time when we go on holiday”.
That’s for now. But give it a week and the moaning will start. “Tennis is my form of exercise, why can’t I play tennis instead?” Ditto for the golfers, swimmers, dancers, footballers, social rugby players etc.
Even if you haven’t picked up a tennis racket in 20 years, you’ll believe you should be out there hitting balls like Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams. Because “that’s real exercise”.
Walking can be cool – just ask Cyril
Patience people! Don’t diss walking. It’s actually a great way to regain some of the fitness and toning that you’ve lost during lockdown, when ambling to and from the fridge for yet another snack was your peak level of physical activity for the day.
Walking can be cool. Remember those heady days in 2018 when Cyril Ramaphosa was the new President of South Africa and social media was all atwitter at his daily walks on the Cape Town beachfront?
Heck, the great man even led walks from the townships of Gugulethu and Athlone as a way to emphasise the health benefits of taking a walk.
Thirty minutes a day will improve your health
“There is no doubt that movement is essential for wellbeing. The general guidelines are that 30 minutes or more of walking every day at a speed of between five and eight kilometres per hour can improve health,” notes Independent Online.
“And studies show that even when people don’t quite manage to walk for the recommended 30 minutes a day the benefits can still accrue. This proves that some walking is better than none at all.”
High levels of obesity and lifestyle diseases such as heart ailments, hypertension and diabetes have long been a problem in middle class South Africa. Given the physical inactivity and mental strains imposed upon us by lockdown and the current crisis, expect these to increase.
But walking is a great way to help keep them in check.
Walking can reduce heart disease and diabetes
“A brisk walk for three hours a week – or just half an hour a day – is associated with a 30% to 40% lower risk of heart disease in women. Those at high risk of diabetes cut their risk in half by combining consistent exercise like walking with lower fat intake and a 5% to 7% weight loss,” says Asics, the global sports equipment brand.
It adds that walking will also boost ‘good’ cholesterol, which is the level of high-density lipoproteins called HDL. Similarly, it will help reduce low-density lipoproteins called LDL. This is the ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood that can cause plaque build-up along the artery walls, which is a major cause of heart attacks.
“Walking is a really good form of exercise and can help you reach your fitness and weight-loss goals,” says John Ford, an exercise physiologist at JKF Fitness & Health in New York City.
“I don’t scoff at walking. In fact, walking is the suggested workout over running for many people. For example, those with knee, ankle and back problems and also for people who are overweight to obese. Walking is a lower impact exercise and can be done for longer periods of time,” he told NBC News.
So be like Cyril. Be a walker.