Nature’s perfect medicine to lose weight

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At 35, Stephen Watkinson was a heavy smoker and 45 kilos overweight. His health was so poor that even climbing stairs was an ordeal. The he had a heart attack.

After bypass surgery, Stephen’s surgoen told him he could not enter an organized cardiac-rehabilitation programme until he was able to walk 1500 metres. Stephen went on a strict diet and began walking regularly, building up his stamina. Two years later, he is 45 kilos lighter and his heart rate at rest is an impressive 48 beats per minute.

“At first, I walked because I didn’t want to have another heart attack,” he says. “Now I walk because I enjoy it.” Stephen Watkinson has discovered that walking is good for his health. In one aerobics research study, researchers found that poor fitness is as dangerous as smoking or high cholesterol.

The good news is that moderate workouts can substantially reduce the odds of dying of heart disease, cancer and other cause. In fact, researchers believe that half the decline generally associated with ageing is due to inactivity. By exercising, a person may retain as much as 80 percent of his physical activities betwenn ages 30 and 70.

A sensible walking programme can make dramatic improvements in physical and emotional well-being. And the greatest health gains are enjoyed by completely sedentary people who become moderately active – who walk at a brisk pace fro half an hour a day. Here’s what walking can do for you :

Ease aches and pains:
Muscles nd joints stiffen and atrophy when are not used regularly. Walking (including stretching and strengthening

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exercise) is the best defence against these ailments because it keeps the body flexible without subjecting it to too much stress.

During high-impact activities, like running and aerobics, your feet hit the ground with a force equal to two to four times your weight. The shock can damage joints and muscles, especially in lower limbs. Walking, by contrast, exerts a force of only one and a half times of your weight.

Susan Hendricks, 35, used to compete in marathons. Her intense training led to pulled tendons and other injuries, but she accepted them as par for the sport. Then a few years ago, when doctors found a fracture in her pelvis, Susan switched to race walking, which demands more muscle strength than running yet places less stress on her back and joints. Susan still competes in marathons but as a walker.

Make you look better:
As we grow older, we all begrudge gravity’s effect on our once-firm flesh. The problem is that, after the age of 30, adults lose muscle mass. Thus a 50 year old who weighs the same as he did at 20 may still look heavier than his younger self.

For many people, a vigorous walking programme using powerful, synchronized arm strokes can help achieve a shapelier body. The acivity – which I call power stepping – helps to stregthen and tone all the major muscle groups including your shoulders and arms, your back and stomah, and your legs and buttocks. It also improve circulation amd makes your muscle fibres more flexible. This may help you avoid some of the common injuries that affict week-end athletes: pulled muscles, ligament strains and tendinitis.

You may not be able to replicate the figure of your teenage years but power stepping will help you to look as fitt and trim and healthy as is possible for your age and life-style.

Reduce stress:
Dr Hampton Roy, a 53 year old Ophthalmologist, walks 11 kilometres to work three times a week. The exercise provides “pondering time” and has proved to be a natural tranquillizer. Dr Roy started exercise walking in his early 30s but stopped after eight years. Over the next three years he became incrisingly moody. Egged on by his wife, he took up walking again and hasn’t stopped since.

Daily life is full of stressful events that shift the nervous system into high gear. Heart rate and blood pressure rise and muscles tense.

Dr Claude Miller, a psychiatrist, recommends a brisk 15 minutes walk whenever tension builds, as well as two hours before bedtime if you suffer from insomnia. It’s the best antidote to what he calls the “two litres of aggression” delivered daily to our doors.

Help you think better :
Many artists and philosophers believed that walking help them think clearly and creatively. Henry David Thoreau and Charles Dickens were dedicated walkers and covered thousands of kilometres in their lifetime. Now evidence is mounting that regular exercise does indeed stimulate the brain.

A study of 55 to 70 year old a veterans’ hospital found that those who took one hour walk three times a week over a four month period improve their reaction time, visual organization and memory over others who remained sedentary or did non-aerobic exercises. Increased circulaion of oxygen and blood, as well as changes in the brain’s biochemistry, may account for these improvements.

Strengthen your heart:
Mady Bostain’s father suffered a heart attack at the age of 35 and despite doing right things -” I’ve always been a walker” she says- Mady had one at 69.

Still her precautions have paid off. She avoided herat problems until late in life. Oer the past year, Mady had walked 6500 kilometers, logging 16 to 26 kilometeres daily.

Brisk walking forces the heart to pump harder to deliver more oxygen to the muscles. This extra pumping trains the heart to work more efficiently and thus beat more slowly than the heart odf an out of shape person. So beneficial is walking that it is the exercise most doctors prescribe.

thinking-smileyBuild strong bones :
For five years, Tricia Stevens, 58, has been an active walker. She started because of ankle and hip pain and the fear that she would develop osteoporosis as did her mother, who broke both hips. She’s now averaging five kilometres a day, four days a week and her pain is gone.

The density of your bones depends on how much you exercise and waht you ate as a child and young adult. The denser your bones at the age of 35, the less your risk of developing osteoporosis. Walking a weight-bearing exercise, slows bone loss and may even promote growth.

Though osteoporosis is best battled when you are young, it can be alleviated in later life. A university study found that women with ostreoporosis who took an adequate amount of calcium and walked for one hour a day, three days a week for 22 months increased their bone density at the spine by six percent.

Help you lose weight:
After the age of 25, metabolism – how fast your body burns fuel – slows and fat becomes harder to shed. To lose weight, most of us cut calories until we’ve reached our goal, then go back to old ways. The best way to stay thin is to cut calories and to exercise.

Wlter Stein was 45 kilos over-weight and suffered from diabetes. He ate all the wrong foods and never worked out. At 46, he went into a diabetic coma. After he recovered, his doctor told him he wouldn’t live to be 50 unless he made some changes.

Walter entered a 1600 metre fun walk, finished the event and noticed he wasn’t hungry. That was enought to start him walking everyday and to adopt a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates.

In less than a year, Walter lost 45 kilos and with the help of medication his diabetes was under control. He has taken up race walking and last year he has come third in his age group in a 40 kilometres race walking championship. “I’m not looking back” he says. ” I’ve won my race, the race is to live.”

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