Time for solitary walksChoose a route with fewer people and avoid narrow paths where chances of running into people are higher.
Back in March, when Italy ordered a lockdown, a video emerged of furious Italian Mayors who were angry after witnessing their citizens jogging, playing ping-pong and taking 'exhausted dogs' for long walks when they were urged to stay in to contain the virus. A few days later, a similar lockdown was imposed in Nepal too. People worked from home. People worked out at home. However, now that the lockdown’s been lifted, everything is slowly but steadily going back to how things were before March, including most people’s favourite outdoor activity—walks.
“Before social distancing was introduced, I used to go jogging every morning with a few of my neighbours. But ever since the lockdown, our routine was hampered for almost three whole months,” says Ramita Ale, who now enjoys the morning walks she takes. “We stay a few feet away from each other, we wear our masks and we carry our own water bottles.”
But, despite the lifting of lockdown, you might be questioning whether it's even okay to go outside to take a walk and escape the stress and anxiety this situation has brought on. It's an important question, especially considering how crucial movement and time spent outdoors can be for your mental health.
For cardiologist Dr Om Murti Anil, walking is a polypill that controls many ailments at the same instant. "For example, if you have hypertension and are taking its medicine, the medicine only controls your blood pressure. Walking for about an hour, however, acts as a universal medicine to control the ailments the disease brings along,” he shares.
Anil’s observation is that a majority of people utilised the lockdown to focus on their health; they walked—either around their compounds or terraces or walked about 15-16 km a day—and have lost significant amounts of weight and have improved level of sugar, cholesterol and blood. While on the other hand a few others could not take a walk around the house due to space constraints and have developed hypertension, obesity and high cholesterol. "The point is that one should make walking a habit in order to avoid falling sick. If you’re running by yourself and you’re running in an area where you’re not encountering other people, it’s very healthy." And if you’re still working from home, it’s good to unplug from the 24/7 news cycle and take a break outdoors—if you can do so safely.
The thing about walking is that along with physical benefits, it lifts our mood and enhances our brain function as well. Anil explains, "Exercises like walking helps secrete feel-good brain chemicals that can counter the feelings of stress." He adds, “Walking with your spouse avails you a cool time to catch up on life and have a healthy conversation which may bring therapeutic effects in eliminating stress. It broadens your mind, enhances fraternity, and helps eliminate social anxiety."
The merits of walking, as pointed out by Anil have long been established and are new to none. However, this simple formula for good health is often overlooked. So, if you’re looking for something to add to your list of post-lockdown activities, morning walk should definitely be number one. But before you put on your walking shoes and gear up to become one with nature, below are certain precautions you must take to keep yourself and others safe.
Walking for as less as 30 minutes a day is considered good
Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet or more from others at all times.
When you go running or walking during a pandemic, you cannot exactly afford to plug in your earphones and get lost in the rhythm. Keep planning your running path so that you have time to change the route if people come too close. Always choose a route with fewer people and avoid narrow paths where chances of running into people are higher
Wear a facemask when you’re running or walking in an area where physical distance is hard to maintain. But if you’re running alone in your neighbourhood where you occasionally see another runner or dog walker, it’s likely that you don’t need to wear a face covering. Instead, be mindful about crossing the street to avoid getting too close to the other person
Even if you are a seasoned marathon runner, it is not the time to show off your skills. Avoid high-intensity running and take it easy for the next few months