Walking : Our Can-Do, Must-Do Exercise

An elderly couple taking a walk in a grassy area

                                                                          Photo by Vlada Karpovich 

 “Walking is man’s best medicine,” said Hippocrates ((460-370 BC) centuries ago. He was known as the ‘Father of Medicine.’

“Walking is the best possible exercise," said U.S. President Thomas Jefferson over two hundred years ago.

“Just walk for half an hour every day, or at least for 5 days a week,” says my current physician.

Walking – The Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone Exercise:

Almost anyone can do it- The mantra for good health and a long life it is said is to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Walking regularly is the antidote to a sedentary lifestyle. It can be practiced by people across age groups.

Teenagers can do it to knock off some pounds.

A middle-aged person can fit a half hour of working into their schedule at work or on the way to work.

What about us seniors? Yes, those of us who can, should take a brisk walk regularly.

Walking is an exercise that is available to all and affordable to all, requiring no additional or special equipment… other than a pair of good shoes!

Walking is often the only 'exercise' that people in their eighties or nineties are advised to do, if even for a short time, by their doctors.

Anywhere?? - Yes, it could be a pleasant walk in a park.

It could be on quiet streets.

Or it could be multiple turns around your apartment block.

It could also be on the terrace of your home with only the sky and stars for company or distraction.

I know of a lady who religiously completed 10000 steps per day, every day, by walking only inside her 2-bedroom apartment of 900 sq ft! I mastered this art during the Covid pandemic when confinement at home was the norm worldwide!

Any time-Morning and evening walks are most common in my neighborhood. I a near-constant parade of early morning walkers. Mostly middle-aged and seniors. It starts with the lone elderly gentleman with a spritely walk and a seldom-used cane in hand to frighten street dogs away.

Often I complete the last lap of my goal of “at least 7500 steps” after dinner!

 Important factors about walking as an exercise, as reiterated by doctors, are:

RegularityWalking is to be done regularly for the best results.

 They diagnosed my father with diabetes when he was 43 years and his physician advised him to take up brisk walking as an exercise. Two hours of brisk walking was enough to get his weight down in 6 months. The first walking bout was before sunrise between 5.30 and 6.30 am and the second after sundown between 6 & 7 pm. He would walk up & down our driveway for about a furlong.

He lived an active life up to the age of 93. Walking was his only long-duration exercise, along with a few stretching and stability exercises.

Brisk paceDawdling is not walking. If the purpose of walking is to burn calories, brisk walking is a must.

Staying hydratedIt is easy to get dehydrated when on a long walk, especially in hotter climes. Carrying a water bottle is necessary to avoid dehydration and its associated problems.

Protecting your feetIf you are planning to take up long, brisk walks regularly, it is essential to invest in a pair of good shoes. My endeavor to include more of walking in my daily routine with a pair of low-heeled slippers ended disastrously. I stumbled on a stone in my path, my foot slipped off the heel and I ended up with a hairline fracture of my foot bone. My foot was in a cast for 3 weeks.

My Learnings after taking up walking as an exercise and from those who walked habitually:

-        Invest in a smartwatch that comes with a step counter – It's good to keep track of how much you’ve walked. While there are some expensive brands, affordable ones which do the job are available

-        -  Try and complete at least 30  to 40% of your targeted number of steps or targeted duration of walking in the morning. It will make you feel good, confident, and more positive about the day

-          - Tips such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking your vehicle away from your destination, and walking to the grocery are valid. But a dedicated time slot of at least 30 to 45 minutes every day for walking, is required to achieve 7500-10,000 steps

-        -  I have written above about my Dad managing diabetes and living up to the ripe age of 93 with walking as his sole exercise

-         - My work colleague would get off at a train station which is about 3 kilometers from the office and walks the distance twice every day. On her way to the office in the morning and on her return home in the evening. I have known her to fall ill very rarely. At 52 years she is slim as a reed. Her appearance belies her age

-         - The vegetable vendor in our area walks for a couple of hours in the mornings, through the streets, with her vegetable basket on her head. At 68 years she is fit and fine. She educated her daughter, who is employed in a bank. Her job requires her to be seated for hours every day, in front of the computer. At 44 she is obese and diabetic. She has no time to exercise as she bustles between home, children, and career. 


 According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – USA, “As an older adult, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can prevent or delay many of the health problems that seem to come with age.” 

 Further Adults aged 65 and older need:

  • At least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate-intensity activity such as brisk walking. Or they need 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running.
  • At least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles.
  • Plus activities to improve balance, such as standing on one foot” 

Dr.Sarita Bajaj, MD (Medicine), DM (Endocrinology), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) & Associate Professor at MLN Medical College, Allahabad, India has stated in her paper on “Walk for Health” in the website of Diabetes India states that

“Walking is one of the best ways to enhance general health
1/2 hour of brisk walking = 200 calories burnt
1 lb(1/2 kg) of fat = 3500 calories
Therefore to burn 1lb of fat (1/2 kg) one needs to walk every day for a minimum of 17 days to burn that amount with never a miss.”

According to the reputed US-based Mayo Clinic, regular brisk walking can help you:

  • ·        Maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat
  • ·        Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes
  • ·        Improve cardiovascular fitness
  • ·        Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • ·        Improve muscle endurance
  • ·        Increase energy levels
  • ·        Improve your mood, cognition, memory and sleep
  • ·        Improve your balance and coordination
  • ·        Strengthen immune system
  • ·        Reduce stress and tension

MOST IMPORTANTLY *****The Faster, Farther and More Frequently youWalk, the Greater the Benefits!!”****

 According to the American Psychological Association, there is a lowered risk of depression of 18% among adults who got just half the recommended amount of physical activity per week—the equivalent of about 75 minutes of brisk walking—compared with adults who reported no physical activity.

 And 25% among adults who got the recommended amount of physical activity per week—about 2.5 hours of brisk walking. Getting more exercise than that does not seem to confer extra mood benefits.

 Further, 1 in 9 cases of depression could potentially be prevented if all adults did just 150 minutes of physical activity per week, the minimal amount recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Source: Pearce, M., et al. (2022). Association between physical activity and risk of depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry79(6), 550–559. This meta-analysis covers 15 prospective studies involving 191,130 participants.https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/11/defeating-depression-naturally

  So the Loud & Clear Message for us Seniors is :

  • To Walk, As Much as We Can and as Briskly as we Can. Duly protecting our feet.
  • Use a Walking Aid if necessary. A stick or a cane. BUT Don’t Give up Walking
  • Walk Indoors or Outdoors
  • Walk Alone or in Company
  • But Walk We Must!

This article includes inputs from my detailed article on walking on www.medium.com

Disclaimer – This article is meant only for information & education and does not constitute medical advice by a doctor or a medical professional. Readers are advised to not rely solely on the information provided in this article but seek medical advice to receive personalized advice/treatment.

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