Don't be left out!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Start with a Stroll: The Benefits of Walking

Walking has many benefits.

Wait…don't leave yet!

I seriously debated giving this post a title totally off topic because I'm convinced people poo-poo the idea of walking far too often.

As you know, walking has been around for centuries, safe for the majority of populations, can be done with little equipment (just shoes really…and clothing.  No naked walkers please), completed indoors or out and can often be a great way to exercise with a friend or get some needed alone time.

I know you know walking has benefits, but just in case, here's a quick reminder form the American Heart Association.
Research has shown that walking at least 30 minutes a day can help you:

  • Improve your blood pressure, blood sugar levels and blood lipid profile
  • Enhance your mental well-being
  • Reduce your risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce your risk of breast and colon cancer
Despite all these reasons listed above I often hear comments like….

-I don't feel like I'm working hard enough when I walk
-Walking isn't difficult
-I don't even sweat
-I feel like I should be doing more

A few nights ago, I took a short, solo walk around my neighborhood.  The air was just a bit chilly.  The leaves are starting to change.  It was almost dark.  It was just perfect.  I'll admit, I was feeling a little down because I didn't plan well enough to get a workout in earlier in the day and "settled" for a quick walk before dinner.  Keep in mind, I had already worked out the six days prior to this so my guilt of not working out was stemming from unrealistic expectations, not from a lack of actual workouts.  In less than thirty minutes my mood was lifted, my stress decreased and I was more energized.

It occurred to me then I place entirely way too much emphasis on the physical benefits of exercise and often under value the mental and emotional benefits that come from even the simplest of movements like walking.  Exercise doesn't always need to be hard, difficult to leave me in a pool of sweat to be valuable.  Judging from the feedback I get when I suggest walking to others, it would appear that I'm not the only one who thinks this.

I could refer you to studies like this, this or this to prove to you that walking can help reduce anxiety, improve self esteem, and lift your mood almost instantly but it all really boils down to this equation

The psychological benefits of exercise can be just as important as the physical ones.  

A blog post titled, "The 'Do Something' Principle" by Mark Manson popped up in my news feed yesterday.  I don't know Mark and this happened to be the first ever blog post of his I've read, but in this particular post he pointed out that doing something, anything can lead to more.
"Your actions create further emotional reactions and inspirations and move on to motivate your future actions. Taking advantage of this knowledge, we can actually re-orient our mindset in the following way:
Action –> Inspiration –> Motivation

The conclusion is that if you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, then do something, anything really, and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself."
May I suggest that that "something" Mr. Manson is talking about could be….a walk?

That walk just might lead to an improved attitude, which could lead to making better choices, which could lead to better health.  As Mr. Manson pointed out, once you get the ball rolling, let the momentum take over.  Exercise doesn't always have to leave us utterly exhausted to be beneficial.  Sometimes it starts with a simple stroll.


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