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These legs are made for walking

Don't underestimate the benefits of walking. There are many, particularly as a person ages. Picture: DMITRY SCHEMELEV on UNSPLASH

By Dr Andre Comrie

Most of us were really relieved when we were allowed to walk relatively freely again after weeks of stage 5 lockdown. I think we became very aware of how quickly our bodies deteriorated when our mobility was curtailed, but it was probably the confinement, rather than the physical activity, that really got to us.

Truth is, though, that our normal way of life is much too sedentary for our good health,. We really do need to build walking into our everyday routines.

So what are some of the benefits of walking? When you walk you are carrying your own body weight, so it is a bona fide weight-bearing exercise.

Why exercise is important for bone health

Some of the health benefits from this are:

• Muscle strength and endurance increases, and joint and muscular pain, and stiffness decreases. As you age your muscles can atrophy very quickly and it becomes increasingly difficult to rebuild them. That is one of the reasons the recent ‘house arrest’ was very damaging to the elderly.

• Bones are strengthened and fractures become less likely – again a bigger risk as we age.

• Balance is far better. Again, as people age, the loss of confidence in one’s balance affects quality of life badly.

• Weight-management is easier – body fat is reduced.

• Diabetes is better controlled and managed. A 40% reduction in the risk of developing this debilitating disease has been attributed to walking about 30 minutes a day on average.

• The fitness of the heart and lungs improves greatly, so the risk of heart disease and stroke is reduced. Walking an average of 30 minutes daily can lower the risk of heart disease by around 35%. That’s more than medicinal drugs can offer.

• Walking goes a long way towards protecting our mental health. Evidence supports the fact that exercise helps people with clinically diagnosed depression and anxiety disorders, and improves the effectiveness of the prescribed medications.

Protecting your health when infections or viruses threaten

What to do if walking is difficult because of painful knees and other joints? Certain nutritional supplements can alleviate the inflammation, reducing the pain. Omega 3 oils are very helpful for this and many other conditions as well. There are also supplements designed to improve the cartilage cushioning between the moving parts of the joints.

If you are interested to know what I personally use and recommend, contact me on 084 506 3643.

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