Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of a walking programme in not only improving cardiovascular fitness, but also lowering the risks of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and hypertension.
Professor Vicky Lambert from the University of Cape Town Centre for Sports Medicine says walking is a fun way of improving one's fitness and also gives one an opportunity of being part of the camaraderie.
Even walking short distances can be immensely beneficial. The best approach is to adopt the 10 000 steps programme, a globally accepted programme for encouraging walking in communities around the world. 10 000 steps is a close approximation to accumulating 30 minutes of physical activity a day recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine and the US Surgeon General to maintain a healthy life.
Most office workers walk between 3 000 and 5 000 steps a day, so building up to 10 000 steps can be challenging. However if one follows a creative but commonsense approach such as the tips listed below, the 10 000 steps level can be reached, says Prof Lambert. "I would encourage
first time walkers to try some of the tips listed below," she says.
Use the 10% rule: if you find in your normal daily activity you
are well shy of the 10 000 steps required, don't worry. Look for
concrete ways you can increase your steps per day, say 10% a week, and
gradually get to the goal of 10 000 steps. You will find this much less
taxing on the body and less of a motivational strain.
Break your day into three parts, and try to incorporate a good
walk into each part.
Be creative: Look for ways to increase the amount of walking in
your working and home life. Try taking the stairs instead of the lifts
or the escalator; go for a walk during your tea or lunch break.
Use the weekends to the fullest. Try to incorporate walks into
your weekend relaxation, rather than flopping down in front of the
television. At the shopping mall, try to park in the furthest parking
bay - not only will you incorporate a nice long walk into your shopping
routine, but you'll also be guaranteed a parking spot!
5. South Africa is full of excellent places to walk, and you don't
have to head off into the countryside to find them. Or even just to your
local zoo, or have a picnic in the park - carrying stuff from your car
will accumulate the steps too. Even on holiday, seek out interesting
walks as part of your experience.
6. Join a walking club, join Walk/Run for Life, or simply start a
walking group with your neighbours or work colleagues. It's safe,
sociable and the kilometers seem to pass more easily if you are in a
group. Try to challenge each other to see who can accumulate the most
steps over a month.
7. South Africa has a vibrant road running circuit, with most of
the major cities holding events every weekend, and many clubs hold time
trials on some weekday evenings. Even if running is not your thing, most
of the events welcome walkers, and even at the longer events such as
marathons, shorter distance races are offered. Contact your local
athletics body, watch the press or purchase Tom Cotterell's Runner's
Guide for more information.
If you do other forms of exercise already, don't worry.
Exercises such as running, cycling or spinning will all record steps on
Dogs are not just wonderful companions, but are a great
motivation to go for walks in your neighbourhood.
Go dancing. Whether it's ballroom or clubbing, it's a great way
to accumulate steps.
As thousands of people take to the streets this Sunday (23 July) for the Discovery 702 Walk the Talk, many others will be considering walking the event next year, or at least bringing walking into their daily exercise programme.