Not just a walk in the Park

#36 Health & Beauty Running

Besides the usual cardiovascular benefits, walking also helps improve vision and diabetes. We tell you more

By Chia Hui Jun

Everyone knows that regular, vigorous exercise improves one’s cardiovascular and immune systems, and muscle and bone strength. But not many know that the less vigorous activity of walking yields health benefits too.

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For one, walking can provide similar benefits as running does, if one spends equivalent amounts of energy, says Dr Daniel Wai, an endocrinologist, consultant and medical director of Daniel Wai Diabetes, Thyroid and Hormone Clinic, Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
Walking can also improve vision, aiding in age-related eye conditions.

How Walking Helps the Eye

Walking may delay the onset and severity of cataracts, where the eyes’ clear lens becomes cloudy with age, says Dr Chng Nai Wee, an ophthalmologist, clinical director and partner at Eagle Eye Centre.

Exercise reduces inflammation and irregularities in cells lining the arteries playing a role in age-related macular degeneration, which afflicts the centre of the retina in one in four people.

A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology where researchers from University of Wisconsin tracked 4,000 people found that those who walked more than 12 blocks daily were about 30 per cent less likely to develop macular degeneration.

Walking lowers the eye ball pressure in glaucoma, where high eye pressure damages the optic nerve, says Dr Wai.

For Circulation & Diabetes

People with artery blockage in the legs may find that walking improves their blood circulation, and pregnant women with deep vein thrombosis can find pain relief more quickly through walking than resting in bed, he added.

Another lesser known fact is that walking helps to prevent and reduce the severity of diabetes. It reduces insulin resistance of the body by reducing fat in the body, abdomen and liver, and lets blood sugar enter muscles to be stored or used. Walking uses up sugar instead of fat, and stops the liver from producing excessive sugar.

Other Health Benefits

“We know that people who walk more live longer, get fewer heart attacks, strokes and cancer,” says Dr Wai.

“Also, it prevents and improves chronic diseases such as hypertension and high cholesterol, and obesity-related diseases such as fatty liver and polycystic ovarian syndrome,” he adds.

The American Physical Therapy Association found that walking improved the elderly’s health, balance perception, gait speed, and the co-ordination of balance and locomotion of the brain, eye, and limbs. Walking helps counter dementia, depression, anxiety, and perceived stress.

Maximising Your Walking

With its reputation as a garden city, Singapore has numerous places for those who are keen to start walking, including community parks, reservoirs and Gardens by the Bay.

To reap maximum benefits, Dr Wai recommends strength training in combination with walking, while Dr Chng suggests sustained brisk walking of 2km to 4km, thrice a week for more than 20 minutes each time until one perspires.

All you need is a good pair of shoes, and you can walk your way to good health.

Why not join the Fairprice Walks With U walkathon on Jun 29? Fairprice will pledge $100 in Fairprice vouchers to needy families for every participant.

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