Saturday, 4 January 2014

Walking to health

"Walking is convenient and may be accommodated in occupational and domestic routines. It is self-regulated in intensity, duration and frequency, and, having a low ground impact, is inherently safe. Unlike so much physical activity, there is little, if any, decline in middle age. It is a year-round, readily repeatable, self-reinforcing, habit-forming activity and the main option for increasing physical activity in sedentary populations. Present levels of walking are often low. Familiar social inequalities may be evident. There are indications of a serious decline of walking in children, though further surveys of their activity, fitness and health are required. The downside relates to the incidence of fatal and non-fatal road casualties, especially among children and old people, and the deteriorating air quality due to traffic fumes which mounting evidence implicates in the several stages of respiratory disease. Walking is ideal as a gentle start-up for the sedentary, including the inactive, immobile elderly, bringing a bonus of independence and social well-being. As general policy, a gradual progression is indicated from slow, to regular pace and on to 30 minutes or more of brisk (i.e. 6.4 km/h) walking on most days. These levels should achieve the major gains of activity and health-related fitness without adverse effects. Alternatively, such targets as this can be suggested for personal motivation, clinical practice, and public health. The average middle-aged person should be able to walk 1.6 km comfortably on the level at 6.4 km/h and on a slope of 1 in 20 at 4.8 km/h, however, many cannot do so because of inactivity-induced unfitness. The physiological threshold of 'comfort' represents 70% of maximum heart rate",  according to the study of Dr. Morris JN and Dr. Hardman AE. at the Health Promotion Sciences Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, England(1).

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(1) "Walking to health" by Morris JN, Hardman AE.

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