Inspired by Rahul’s Padyatra? ‘Excessive walking’ is no shortcut to health, experts warn

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Congressman Rahul Gandhi this month kicked off the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, a 3,570 kilometer journey on foot.

As 52-year-old Gandhi meanders through the southern states, he will walk around 25 kilometers or more than 35,000 steps every day and will continue to do so for five months from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. So far it has covered about 350 kilometers.

Although this is an unprecedented political gesture, one wonders what kind of wear and tear it could leave on Gandhi’s health. It also raises the question: is it advisable to “excessively walk” for someone who is not an athlete but is otherwise fit like Gandhi? For now, there is a rest day in the yatra each week when, according to Congress leaders, medical camps are held and yoga is organized for the participants.

News18 spoke to experts who said the latest fad of recording maximum steps on trendy smartwatches or Fitbit devices has blurred the difference between daily walking and “excessive walking” among people. young people, middle-aged people and even the elderly.

Also in Gandhi’s case, excessive walking can not only cause excessive fatigue, foot blisters, shoe bites or hip joint pain, but can also lead to multiple health problems such as anemia, dehydration or muscle fatigue.

Health experts suggest that while walking is good for the heart and overall health, excessive walking does more damage than it benefits the average person.

While the benefits of walking are reaped over a longer period of time, side effects may show up in a shorter period of time. Therefore, care should be taken when the good feelings associated with walking begin to fade or are replaced by feelings of fatigue and stress, several doctors told News18.com.

medical advice

According to Dr. Abhishek Jain, Orthopedic Expert, Foot and Ankle Injury Specialist and Sports Injury Specialist at Delhi-based Indian Spinal Injuries Center (ISIC), “Blisters on feet, shoe bites, surfacing of conditions like shin splints, heel pain while walking for as long as 25 kilometers are quite possible and obvious”.

He added: “It’s important to check your body from head to toe to analyze wear and tear from exercise, which includes walking.”

Other health experts have echoed similar concerns and said the duration of any exercise, whether as regular as walking, requires careful consideration.

Walking, the simplest and most common form of exercise, is economical, natural, and requires no special training or equipment. “However, for someone who is always sedentary, suddenly walking five miles a day is likely to lead to some form of injury,” said Dr. Rajeev Jayadevan, senior consultant gastroenterologist and former president of the Indian Medical Association. .

He added: “For someone who is already taking 3,000 or 5,000 steps a day, walking 10,000 or 15,000 steps a day won’t be a problem.”

What happens if a person walks too much?

Care should be taken with any complaints or muscle injuries, especially if the pain is persistent. “Our joints take wear and tear from exercise such as walking,” ISIC’s Jain pointed out.

It is possible for muscles to sustain minor tears from exercise, which the human body repairs over time. Experts believe that these muscles, if torn, need time and rest to recover.

The human body cannot keep up with the rigor we impose on it when an individual overtrains or undergoes rigorous exercise.

For example, Jain added: “Thigh and leg muscle fatigue and hip joint pain are expected, especially when you are not a regular walker, an athlete and when you are lacking in vitamin D and B12. “

Dr Manish Sontakke, Senior Joint and Spine Surgeon at Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, said: “Any exercise in which our weight is on our knees is not an exercise for our knees. Why would people suffer from osteoarthritis if walking was an exercise for our knees? And why would I need to do knee replacements every day? »

Sontakke, who keeps telling his patients not to walk too much, explained: “When we squat or sit on the floor and try to stand up, the pressure in our knees is almost twice our weight. bodily. A joint will wear when the weight on it is greater or it is subjected to a repetitive cyclic load.

Exercises like cycling, leg extensions, and weighted leg curls are the only workouts recommended for the knees because the body weight does not fall on the joint.

Doctors suggest that the basics for starting to walk is to stop comparing it to the achievements of others. Each person should find their own limit, respect the body’s capabilities and medical conditions, and exercise accordingly.

“For example, someone who has just recovered from Covid-19 should not do strenuous exercise for at least three months. People with heart conditions should see their doctor about what they can and cannot do,” Jayadevan said.

Not only orthopedic problems, excessive walking can also cause other problems. According to Dr Sumit Ray, Head of Department, Critical Care Medicine and Medical Director, Holy Family Hospital, Delhi: “A long strenuous walk or run can also cause significant fatigue due to unrecognized continuous or persistent dehydration. “

Ray pointed out that excessive walking has also been known to cause an “unusual phenomenon” of anemia, “particularly in young women, through complex mechanisms”.

How to determine its walking force?

The amount of walking a person should do is determined by their physical build, said Dr Deepak Agarwal, consultant in orthopedic and spine surgery at Paras Hospital in Udaipur.

“For people who never walk and suddenly start walking 25 miles or more, it will hurt their muscles and they could get plantar fasciitis due to overuse of the foot muscles.”

The sudden increase in walking time can lead to the occasional occurrence of a stress fracture, which can also cause joint micro-trauma.

“It can lead to early arthritis,” Agarwal said. “On the other hand, if the person is in good physical shape (they usually walk 5 to 10 km), they can gradually walk 25 to 30 km. In the case of Rahul Gandhi, he does not actively participate in physical activities such as walking, so it will be difficult,” Agarwal said.

The best way to walk

Experts believe that walking is one of the best things you can do for your physical, mental and heart health.

“The key to long-term walking success is to follow your own pace and listen to the cues the body gives,” said ISIC’s Jain, adding that “you don’t have to overdo it but work on the endurance to achieve general well-being”.

The right amount of regular walking schedules leads to improved health in several ways.

“Walking increases bone strength in addition to improving heart health, lowering blood pressure and lowering the risk of cancer and dementia,” Jayadevan added.

In short, it’s not the amount of exercise we do per day that counts, but rather the regularity with which we do it over the long term that matters. “Health is a long-term investment, there are no shortcuts,” Jayadevan said.

“Pacing yourself, not overdoing it and working on your endurance are the keys to long-term walking success,” said Agarwal of Paras.

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