Often people ask about Vitamins that would suit their health. Can I have a vitamin for my hair, my kidney, my liver? Do I need a vitamin for my heart? Do I need a vitamin to lose weight? We need to understand that vitamins may be needed when there is a deficiency, or when you are on certain medications that are known to deplete vitamins and minerals from our body, which is why they are called as a supplement. However, what I want to discuss about in this blog is Vitamin W. It’s not a vitamin that you will get via food or pill. It is a vitamin, called “Walking”. We all know how good walking is for us, so let’s look into some of its benefits.
-Is inexpensive and free
-You can do it anytime, anywhere, subject to the weather.
-Is a super helpful vitamin for every condition, be it cancer, heart disease, kidney problem provided you are physically able to walk.
Each of us must start investing in walking because besides yoga, walking is that one drug that all of us can add to our lifestyles. Whether you are in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or even 80’s, you can do it. You may not be able to deadlift, bench-press or do CrossFit, but you can walk and do yoga.
So many people live sedentary lifestyles and have sedentary jobs today. And even if you do a one-hour workout, it doesn’t mean that you are active if you find yourself chained to the desk for the remainder of the day. Instead this means you are “Sedentary active”. Now that’s a huge problem because our bodies were never designed to sit for a long period of time. It was never designed to be sedentary. I understand some of us have real problems like corporate jobs that requires you to sit, but still, if there is a will to walk and stay active, there is a way.
If we really sit down and introspect into our lives, we will find time to walk whether it’s a 10 min, 20 min or a one hour walk. You can walk at airports, malls and wherever you want to. Just that you need to have that motivation to do so. Science tells us that even a ten-minute walk is enough to get your circulation moving in a way that is positive for the body. It is enough for you to change your cortisol levels (stress hormone)
It’s all about pulling out those 10 minutes out of our busy day to make time for our health. Else we’ll have to spend more time at hospitals and handling illness.
- Diabetes and Walking:
Talking about Diabetes, one of the most powerful lifestyle changes to heal your condition is walking. Make it a habit to walk for 10-15 mins after 30 min gap post meals. So, whether it’s post breakfast, lunch or dinner, make it a habit to walk after a 30 min gap. You can even begin with one meal in a day. Please make sure you leave a 30 min gap though, because you don’t want to be active after a meal as all the blood circulation should be directed towards the digestive system to facilitate digestion. It works fantastic for Type 2 diabetes in terms of sugar levels as well as heart health. We all know that the root cause of most heart problems is inflammation and inflammation come down when we have the right amount of circulation. Circulation is brought about by exercise. You are free to choose exercises you love, but walking which is something that can be done without a gym or trainer.
- Depression and Walking:
There are so many people who are slipping into depression or are already depressed. Depression and anxiety are becoming a huge problem for human health because it upsets your entire hormonal balance, as your body is constantly producing cortisol. One of the best ways to melt away anxiety is Walking. When you start walking here, you start breathing better and most people under depression don’t breathe the right way. They either exhibit short breathing patterns or are hyperventilating. This means less oxygen going in and more carbon dioxide storage, which is why it can make one feel dizzy and nauseous. or may even undergo an anxiety attack and pass out.
So, when you walk or exercise, you automatically start regulating your breathing which means you start taking in more oxygen. The more oxygen you inhale, the more balanced are your cortisol levels and progesterone, testosterone, oestrogen, androgens as a result (including thyroxine and insulin). It’s all interconnected.
Another thing is, when you start walking, you’re distracting your mind from the problem. Generally, when you are depressed, you tend to focus on all the negatives, you form a shell around you and start to move deeper and deeper into that shell. Hence distraction can be very useful. It could be going out, speaking to a friend, listening to music, reading a book or even walking. If you start engaging in walking, you immediately create a distraction. If you’re lucky and live in a place where you have access to nature, even better. It brings immediate calmness that is going to reduce your anxiety immediately. It’s a different thing in the city though, unless you find parks or gardens dedicated for walking.
A ten-minute walk is a great mood changer because when you walk, your body starts producing endorphins. So, if you find yourself angry, depressed or have any sort of negative emotions coming in your mind, just cut yourself away from the situation and get in a walk. When you distance yourself from the trigger (whether it’s a person, boss, spouse or an event), immediately distancing yourself from the trigger will help you calm down. Come back to it later, since you can’t walk away from all your problems in life, but whenever you come back, you surely will be calmer state and will have the ability to use rationale.
Lastly, when you are anxious or depressed and sedentary at the same time, that makes the whole situation all the worse. You tend to have a lot of unused energy which gets unutilised. Energy has to flow. So, if it’s not being utilized into an exercise or walk, it may be channelized into magnifying all the problems you have.
- Bone health and walking:
For every man and woman, bone health becomes a matter of concern after 40’s and 50’s. It’s unfortunate that we have young people with osteoporosis, which was initially more of a woman related problem because post menopause they lose calcium and bone mineralisation reduces. But not any longer. We have young men with bone density issues too because of sedentary lifestyles. Back pain, knee pain is becoming common too because our bodies are designed to work better when it’s active.
Often people misunderstand weight-bearing exercise. Weight bearing doesn’t mean one has to lift weights. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, so is climbing steps, jogging, mountain climbing. Weight bearing can simply involve your body-weight too.
Now, a lot of people say they have knee pain and they can’t walk. If your knee pain is so excruciating that you can’t even walk 10 minutes, respect your body and give it rest. But also understand that knees become weak because the cartilage and muscles around it aren’t strong enough. In order to make then strong, walking is the least you can go. It’s painful in the beginning, but worth it. Start slow and gradually build up.
Walking makes your muscles and core strong. If you have been going to a gym, you’d know how sore muscles are for the first few days. This is because exercises break down your muscle fibres, but that the same time when those muscle fibres repair, they end up becoming stronger. Similar is the case with your knees. A little pain shouldn’t be an obstacle for you.
The more you walk, the more you will be able to prevent the onset of diseases and there is a great possibility that your doctor will reduce your medication.
- Creativity and walking:
When you walk, your creative juices also flow. Most people get their ideas whether it’s business or a plan that you want to make, when they are walking. If the walk is in nature, even better.
How much can one walk?
There is no magic number, but 10,000 steps can be a great benchmark. One can use a step tracker that reminds you to get in steps whenever you are being too stationary. You are free to use any band; however, I like to use Apple or GOQii. There are some phones that have in-built trackers too. So, choose what works for you, but set a benchmark because sometimes we get so lost in our lives that we forget how active we have been in the day.
I always work with a number because like they say, “you got to measure what you do, and that’s what turns out into a result”. So, if you have a benchmark today of 2000 steps make that 3000 steps and then take it up to 4k, 5k or even 8k.
So, whatever it takes, you want to start adding some walking daily. You may be able to achieve 2000 steps to begin with. That’s completely fine. Set it as a benchmark and try to do better the next day. Adjust and set goals as you travel. When I am in India, my target it 10k steps, but when I am in the US, I aim for 20k steps.
If you get walking into your lifestyle, you are going to notice a change in every aspect of your health. Human body needs activity, it doesn’t need a one-hour workout alone. Don’t be dependent on your drivers and servants. They are great resources for help if you need it but don’t let that limit your activity.
Women who handle all the household chores like cooking, running errands, shopping, etc don’t even need to go to a gym because your body gets enough activity it needs.
Look at your life and think of ways you can improve your activity levels. Figure out your own goal, don’t base it on what people around you talk or say. Once you have your goal figured, try to aim for the everyday. Every time you meet that goal, you automatically get self-motivated and self-motivation is the missing drug today. So is vitamin D, which is discipline.