By now most people have heard the saying, “Sitting is the new smoking”. In recent years an inactive lifestyle has been linked to many illnesses, including heart and artery disease and cancer. The good news is that recent research has shown that an hour of moderate physical activity per day is enough to cancel out the negative effects of prolonged inactivity. Researchers in the study also found that positive results were obtained if the hour was broken up into smaller time periods within the day. So a brisk morning walk, a walk before or after lunch and a walk after dinner, all adding up to one hour per day, was equally effective in eliminating the connection between sitting and ill-health. Even a five minute break every hour (again, adding up to an hour a day) saw the same positive results.
According to Ayurveda, walking is a healthy exercise for all body types. In addition to the research sited above, walking has been shown to lower bad cholesterol, increase cardiovascular fitness, stop bone loss, and lower the risk of dementia, colon cancer and diabetes.
For maximum benefits, your walking pace should be adjusted to your body’s individual needs. Ideally one should stay within your body’s range of comfort. Listen to what your body tells you. If you feel any strain or discomfort, ease up and get back into your comfort zone.
Ayurveda identifies ten body types, made up of different combinations of the three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
If you are a mentally active, Vata type, be careful not to over-extend yourself. A 15 – 20 minute walk is ideal. If you are trying to fit in 30 minutes of exercise a day, break it into two sessions so as not to aggravate your Vata.
If you are a Pitta type you will probably feel bored unless you can look at beautiful scenery along the way — or unless you feel a bit of a challenge. Pitta types need longer, more vigorous stretches of exercise. Try walking for 30 to 45 minutes at a fast pace, even doing race -walking if it is comfortable. But avoid exercising during the hotter hours of the day.
Kapha types need more fast-paced aerobic walking. Both Kapha and Pitta types can increase aerobic activity by swinging their arms as they walk. But beware of carrying weights, as that can cause ligament damage. If you want to build up your arm muscles, check into weight training.
No matter what your body type, you can gain much more from your walk if you stretch before and after you walk. Yoga exercise or 5 minutes of Surya Namaskara can be beneficial for neuromuscular integration. The more prepared your body is, the more effective your walk will be. It helps to warm up your muscles before making demands on them and the cool-down increases flexibility.