10,000 steps on the road to good healthEveryone knows that exercise is essential to a healthy life, but many people are reluctant to start, perceiving it as difficult and painful. But one of the best kinds of exercise is available to most people, and you do it every day without even thinking about it: walking.
Why is walking ― and its more strenuous counterpart, running ― so important for your health? First of all, it improves circulation. Bad circulation can lead to thrombosis, or blood clots in veins, which can cause paralysis and death. The more you walk and run, the more blood your heart pumps, and the better your circulation becomes, helping to prevent stroke and heart disease, which account for 25 percent of Korean deaths.
Another reason to walk or run is to prevent diabetes by maintaining a normal weight. Obese people are at risk of insulin resistance, which means the body doesn’t respond properly to insulin production and causes the pancreas to produce more insulin as a result. Insulin resistance is often a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. Today, there are about 5 million diabetics in Korea, and within 20 years this number is expected to double.
Experts recommend 10,000 steps a day, which burns about 300 calories. If you drive to work, you walk an average of 3,000 steps. If you commute by public transportation, you can assume you take about 5,000 steps. These numbers are nowhere near the recommended 10,000 steps, so you will have to take some time out to exercise. Forty minutes of brisk walking would cover 3,000 to 4,000 steps. If you are have arthritis, try aquasports or just walk while in a pool.
Walking has been shown to be effective for weight loss, compared to other high-intensity exercises. However, you’ll need to walk briskly and for extended periods of time to burn enough calories to lose weight.
So should you walk or run? Walking is best if you want a low-impact way to prevent disease and enhance overall health, but running increases your metabolism and stamina.
Whether you walk or run, you need to do it regularly. Walking should be done five times a week, and running, three times a week. Working out only on weekends isn’t enough.
In your rush to better health, you need to pay attention to injury prevention. Running causes many more injuries than you might expect. Sports medicine studies have shown that 70 to 80 percent of runners suffer from injuries, and more than half of the injured quit running. Dr. Jang Gi-un of Hangang Sacred Heart Hospital says, “The most frequent injuries occur in knees, at 25 percent; calves and shins, 20 percent; feet, 15 percent; and ankles make up 15 percent. Seventy to 80 percent of running-related injuries are concentrated in the lower legs.”
To prevent injuries, don’t ignore the signals that your body sends while working out. If you feel even the slightest pain, stop running and give your muscles some time to recover. Also, inappropriate shoes, attire, unstable road surface and a lack of stretching can increase the risk of serious injuries. Dr. Park Won-ha of Samsung Clinic advises, “If you want to avoid running-related injuries, stretching is a must; don’t push yourself, and don’t go too fast too soon.”
As far as shoes and attire are concerned, go shopping for shoes around 4 p.m., when your feet are at their widest. Try them on with your running socks, and make sure the shoes aren’t too tight. Also, keep in mind that running shoes are made to last about 600 to 800 kilometers (372 to 500 miles). They may look fine, but the cushions may say otherwise. If it’s too expensive to buy a new pair, at least change the padding.
In running clothes, avoid 100-percent cotton, which can retain moisture, but look for material such as Coolmax. In the fall or winter, running tights help decrease wind resistance and keep you warm.
Even though running can help keep your heart healthy, keep in mind that heart attacks can occur after running. A well-known American running expert and marathoner, Jim Fixx, died of a heart attack at 52 after a long run in 1984. “If you have high blood pressure, smoked longer than 10 years, or any of your family members has a history of heart-related diseases, consult your doctor before running, especially participating in a marathon,” says Dr. Lee Jong-ha of Kyung Hee University Medical Center.
Also, don’t sit down or stop immediately after intensive running but keep moving, either briskly walking or lightly jogging, because an abrupt halt will strain your heart.
Park Tae-kyun, Kim Sun-ha and Eugine Oh contributed to this report.
by Hong Hye-gul