Walking for most people is the most underrated form of exercise. But each one must make one’s own health decisions. As Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, a Professor of Clinical Medicine, said, “You have the right and obligation to self, to participate in decisions that affect your health.” For me, walking has contributed immensely towards making my life healthier and happier. Regular walking for health became a part of my routine only after retirement. All through my professional career as a doctor, there was neither the time nor inclination to take long walks. Free time was meant for catching up with sleep or doing essential chores that had been neglected.
A Daily Walk
I now live in a gated colony for retirees of the Armed Forces. It is spread over several acres and accommodates 540 families. A broad, well-paved walkway encircles the colony and is hedged in by a solid boundary wall. The walkway is brightly lit all through the night. As no vehicles are permitted on this pavement, it is safe for people of any age. A number of people keep walking at all times of the day and even through the early part of the night.
Encouraged by such enthusiasts, I decided to take up walking for health every evening. At first, walking alone made me feel self-conscious. But gradually, I overcame my shyness. Now it has become an important part of my routine. There are many individuals whom I regularly meet on my walks. At first, we ignore each other. Then we begin to nod briefly. As days pass by, we make bold to smile and eventually greet each other with an enthusiastic ‘hullo.’ If someone is not seen for a few days, it becomes a matter of concern. When we meet again we ask, “Haven’t seen you for a few days. Were you out of town? Or have you been ill?” Life is never lonely. There are always people around, and over a period of time, we become friends.
Some people walk in small groups or with a friend or two. I prefer to walk alone. It takes me fifteen minutes to encircle the colony, and I manage to do three rounds every evening without tiring. I wear comfortable walking shoes, which gives me a steady gait and dress up in light clothing. When I walk, I aim to balance my head in line with my spine. This keeps me from slouching. I walk briskly but don’t speed, as I don’t want to be breathless.
Physically, walking has done me a world of good.
Burning calories has kept me slim, and my lower limbs don’t have the burden of supporting a heavy body. My muscles and bones feel strong because of better circulation in my limbs. In spite of my age, I feel that osteoporosis is a long way off. I have a good appetite and also sleep well at night. I have noticed that if I don’t walk for a couple of days, I tend to get muscle cramps at night.
Regular walking has improved my moods and boosted my self-esteem. It clears my head and makes me think creatively. Scientists say that walking boosts the size of the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning. As I am also a freelance writer, I like the free flow of ideas when I walk alone.
I am a hypertensive on regular treatment. I am convinced that walking is responsible for my cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness. My Blood Pressure remains under control, and so is my cholesterol. I feel encouraged when people tell me that I look twenty years younger than my age of eighty-five.
This gives me the desire to motivate other elderly, overweight, or sluggish people to take up walking regularly. It may be a lower impact exercise, but it can be done for long periods and at one’s convenience either by day or night. Walking needs no training or no special equipment. It is sure to increase one’s life span, give one a calm temperament, and a peaceful spirit. Walking reduces symptoms of social withdrawal, especially in the elderly, and makes one enjoy the outdoors. All it needs is the will power to make it a daily practice. Then one can glibly say with Bernard Baruch: “To me, Old Age is always fifteen years older than I am.”
Eva Bell is a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. She is a freelance writer and her articles, short stories and children’s stories have been published in magazines, newspapers, on the Net, and in several anthologies. She is the author of the novels: “Silver Amulet,” “When Shadows Flee,” “Halo of Deceit,” “Runaway Widow,” “Power Surge in Eden,” “Knee Jerks and Gallop Rhythms.” Non-Fiction includes: “Grace Abounding,” and “Womanism- The Adventure of being a Woman.”