By Dr H. S. Rissam July 2001 Endorphin, a natural painkiller and relaxant, is released into our bloodstream every time we take a walk—inducing a feeling of well being and positivity Heart ailments may be compared to the sword of Damocles that hangs over everybody’s head: it can fall on anybody, anytime, anywhere. The silver lining is that a simple act like walking can go a long way in preventing the onset of a life-threatening heart attack. SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE Of all the known risk factors that might lead to coronary heart disease, the worst is a sedentary lifestyle. Most people avoid exercising not because they do not have the time, but because they are plain lazy. Leisure and recreational activities now mean late night dinners and television, instead of sports and morning walks. This has resulted in a majority of the populace getting no physical exercise, which in turn leads to an increase in weight, high levels of cholesterol, and diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. A combination of these factors damages the heart and leads to angina or myocardial infraction, in short, heart attacks.WHY WALK? Spend at least 40 to 60 minutes every day for physical exercise. Exercise has a positive effect on cardiac risk factors like hypertension, diabetes and obesity. People who exercise regularly have a lower pulse rate. This enables them to perform their day-to-day activities at a much lower heart rate than those who are sedentary most of the time. Their cardiac reserve is higher and better and they can engage in physical activities for a longer time without straining their hearts.Other than exercising the heart and developing physical stamina, walking gives you a feeling of well being that affects the way you relate to everything around you. This feeling is produced because when you walk, endorphins are released in the bloodstream. Endorphin is the morphine-like substances produced by the body. Morphine is a painkiller and a relaxant. Walking gives you a ‘shot’ of natural morphine, endorphin, which is responsible for that ‘feel good’ effect you experience every time you walk. It makes you feel nice, puts you in a positive state of mind and helps you think better.A WORD OF CAUTION Walking as an exercise is the best prescription against an impending heart attack. However, those who develop chest pain or any other symptoms while walking must exercise caution and seek a physician’s advice before continuing with the exercise program. PRACTICAL TIPS Walking is the most economical, convenient and safe exercise. You don’t need any equipment, companion or even a playground. No prior reservation is required. You just need a pair of canvas shoes and, more importantly, the will to walk. Try to walk at least four to six kilometers every day, or 30 kilometers every week, or 100 kilometers in a month, and at least 1,000 kilometers a year. Every day, make an entry in a calendar of the number of kilometers you have walked.If you are short of the requisite kilometers for the week, complete the shortfall the next week. Ditto for the month. Complete the month’s quota and if there is a shortfall, it must be completed the next month so that the year’s total comes out to be at least a thousand kilometers. Celebrate the New Year, your birthday or anniversary, or any other special day for that matter, by walking an extra kilometer. Reward yourself by walking extra kilometers. Persuade your spouse, friends, neighbors and acquaintances to walk with you.In 40 years of active walking, you should be able to walk around 40,000 kilometers, which is the same distance required to travel around our planet!
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