It’s good to walk every day. This form of exercise is a very effective way to enjoy our vitality. McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Urszula Zdanowicz, MD, a surgeon/specialist in orthopedics and sports medicine at the Carolina Medical Center in Poland, explains why it is worth walking, how it affects our health, and whether it is necessary to prepare for it.
“There is a famous Schopenhauer’s saying: ‘Life is about movement and movement is its essence,’ and with this one maxim I could end my expert statement, because it is the quintessence of the matter,” laughs Dr. Zdanowicz. “The human body was made to be in constant movement. Walking is therefore the nature of man as a biological being,” she adds.
In the past, it was physical fitness, movement, and good condition that guaranteed survival. Technological progress, the development of civilization, modern inventions that make life easier have made us much less mobile. And it’s not just our fault. Nowadays, unlike in historical times, in order to survive most of the time you have to sit. It is required by the style of our work, commuting, the need to travel quickly, to name a few examples.
“There are several ways to change habits, despite a sedentary lifestyle, and move more during the day,” says Dr. Zdanowicz. “Let us choose to walk wherever possible. If we commute to work by car, park a little further away to reach the office on foot. Instead of an elevator, let’s choose stairs. If we use public transport, let’s get off two stops earlier. In the afternoon, instead of watching TV on a couch, let’s go for a walk to the park or the nearby forest.”
Why is it worth walking?
“Not only is it worth it, it is crucial! Let us not treat walks as an option, but as a permanent element in our daily schedule. Walking, exercise, this is healthy not only for our locomotor system, but also for the whole organism in many aspects, i.e., internal medicine or cardiology,” clarifies Dr. Zdanowicz. “The problem of insufficient daily activity is so serious that even local and state authorities in some countries are involved in activating the society to walk or simply move. During my stay in the United States, I came across a social campaign aimed at encouraging people to walk in shopping malls. This shows that no matter where or how, it is important to walk a certain number of kilometers every day,” explains Dr. Zdanowicz.
For our body, a dose of easy, but systematic movement in the form of walking is definitely better than an intense sport practiced once in a while.
“My patients are often managers, directors, or basically people in high professional positions—very ambitious and used to achieving their goals. When they start practicing some sport, such as running, they fully commit to it. When they start training in the gym, they start at the highest level. Competition in this area has nothing to do with health, on the contrary. It leads to injuries, excessive fatigue, or an increase in stress levels. Excessive and dynamic use of the body in combination with daily chores, work, and not getting enough sleep can lead to exhaustion.”
“When patients ask how to increase their mobility, I very often say to take frequent walks,” adds the expert. “The longer the walk, the more kilometers we go, the better impact it has on our health and fitness as well as general well-being. Such a determinant for everyday walks can be the goal of 10,000 steps, i.e., about 6 – 8 kilometers a day. I encourage patients to use popular pedometers to check how many steps we take every day. When we work in a sitting position for 8 hours and commute to work by car, we perform only 20 – 30 percent of the set goal a day. Motivation in the form of setting and measuring our goal by the number of steps per day will be the first stage to build a strong habit of movement,” says Dr. Zdanowicz.
“In addition, the great thing about walking is that it is simply pleasant, perfectly relaxing, and we can practice it at various levels of intensity: from lazy and calm, to energetic and fast – everyone can choose something for themselves. Moreover, walking is very safe, the risk of injury is low, and the activity itself is practically cost-free.”
Should we wear special shoes?
“We need shoes that fit our feet,” says the expert. “Regardless of the brand, price, or modern technologies used, if we feel comfortable in a given shoe, it means that it is just for us. It is worth investing in shoes, but the point is not to buy the most expensive ones. Just look for the ones that are best suited to our feet. Remember, that when choosing footwear, it is not only the size that matters, but additional parameters such as the width of the foot, its shape, or the difference in length between one foot and the other. Footwear that is poorly fitted will cause discomfort and reduce our willingness to walk,” explains Dr. Zdanowicz.
The problem of uncomfortable shoes can sometimes be solved by choosing the correct insole. “Our feet are designed for walking barefoot on sand, grass, or moss where the short muscles of the feet work best. If our shoes do not provide comfort, consider wearing shaped insoles that will help increase the convenience of use,” she adds.
Walking doesn’t have to be boring!
There are plenty of ideas to spice up our walk. We can take children or pets on expeditions, choose interesting routes full of greenery and a pleasant atmosphere, practice Nordic walking which engages many muscles of our body, and, let’s face it, gives us a lot of fun. Starting with gradual, slow walks, as we improve our condition, we can increase the pace and try longer and longer distances or more vigorous marches. They will have a beneficial effect not only on our musculoskeletal system and general well-being, but will also burn a large dose of calories, which will help us shape the correct figure.