“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.”
― Ellen DeGeneres
I laugh whenever I hear that line. For some reason, it also always makes me reflect on how compartmentalized our busy modern lives have gotten.
We go to one place to earn a living, then drive to another to eat, then drive to another place to work out and get into shape, then another place to go home and sleep.
What if there was some way we could use our whole day to get in shape? Sounds crazy, right? Well, I’d like to suggest one small step in that direction.
Do more walking and less driving. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Remind yourself about your wish to get in better shape throughout the day.
Your health is the most important thing in your life.
Think about this- without your health you can’t enjoy any money you make, any relationships you form, any foods you eat, any job you do, any business you start. In fact, without good health, it’s difficult to fully enjoy just about anything.
Maybe your doctor has been encouraging you to get some exercise or maybe you just feel it’s time to get moving.
In either case, walking is probably the best exercise you can start with. And, in many cases, it can be the only exercise you’ll have to do for the rest of your life.
Walking- It’s Up to You
Walking is so incredibly flexible and varied because you have the choice of a range of speeds from strolling to race walking, each of which has a different set of benefits and each of which can be done without any expensive equipment.
An Eskimo custom offers an angry person release by walking the emotion out of his or her system in a straight line across the landscape; the point at which the anger is conquered is marked with a stick, bearing witness to the strength or length of the rage.” ― Lucy R. Lippard
With just a few minutes every day you can improve your overall health, improve your cardiovascular health and lose those extra pounds.
Before starting any exercise program it’s important to talk with your doctor to be sure that you are healthy enough to start a program and that it won’t interfere with any of your current medical conditions or medicines you may be taking.
Walking to improve your health gives you the opportunity to enjoy bright sunshine days or walk on a treadmill and watch your favorite television show.
Walking increases the blood flow through your body and the rate at which you use oxygen. Both of these factors will also increase your productivity and creativity.
Get more Productive
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, Or, How to Philosophize With the Hammer
Don’t be surprised that you’ll be able to easily solve more problems while you’re out on your walk or develop an answer to a pressing problem. Many people also find that they remember things they’ve been struggling to remember for days as the blood begins to flow through your arteries and feed your brain.
According to the Mayo Clinic a brisk walk will help you maintain a healthy weight, help prevent or manage a variety of health conditions, strengthen your bones, lift your mood and improve your balance and coordination.(1) Each of those benefits will only help you to enjoy your life more and more each day.
To improve your health you’ll want to be sure that you are walking at a brisk pace, with your head held high and your shoulders back. Take care to be relaxed in your upper body and allow it to move easily. Swing your arms freely, tighten your stomach slightly to protect your lower back and strike the ground with your heels first.
In the National Walkers’ Health Study, researchers revealed some interesting information about how we walk and who is gaining the most benefit from the exercise. According to their results those who walked slowest (2 miles per hour) had the highest death rates, while those who walked at a brisk pace were much lower.(2)
Walking- the Best Exercise to Lose Weight
“Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors…disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.”
― Rebecca Solnit
You can lose weight without exercise, with just stretching or with exercise and better nutrition. The absolute best way to lose weight, keep it off and feel your best is to incorporate exercise into your daily routine and to eat healthy well-balanced meals that stay under the number of calories you need to maintain your current weight.
Walking affords you a safe exercise program that protects your joints, increases your metabolism, improves your cardiovascular health and improves your overall health.
With all of these benefits to a fitness walking program, it’s no wonder that people are starting more exercise programs by walking and physicians recommend walking for their patients from age 10 to 100.
As you walk, you work muscles, joints and tendons. Walking requires the joints to be flexible to assist the legs with lifting, standing and moving.
Keeping your Flexibilty
Without using walking in your daily life you can lose flexibility and increase your risk of arthritis or degenerative changes to the joints. While degenerative arthritis, or osteoarthritis, can be triggered by an abundance of weight bearing exercises that create excess stress on the joints, your joints can also lose their effectiveness when they are not used as well.
“Walking shares with making and working that crucial element of engagement of the body and the mind with the world, of knowing the world through the body and the body through the world.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
By staying physically active and walking a brisk 30 minutes each day you can easily burn an extra 150 calories each day during the walk. Of course, the faster you walk or the longer you walk, the more calories you’ll burn.
It can be helpful to start walking on a treadmill at the gym to estimate how fast and for how long you’ll need to walk in order to burn off the number of calories you’d like to burn with each walk.
One Pound a Week
In order to lose 1 pound each week you’ll need an approximate 500 calorie loss each day. In other words, 1 pound is equal to an approximate 3500 calories. If you take in 500 less calories than you burn each day, you’ll lose 3500 calories in a week – or 1 pound of fat.
It is also important to remember that as you add muscle to your body frame, it weighs slightly more than fat does. Pay close attention to how your clothes fit you and how your body looks, and not just on the numbers on the scale in your bathroom.
It is also important to balance the amount of exercise you get with stretching, flexibility and rest. If you are new to regular exercise it is important to start slow so you reduce your potential for injury and soreness that might stop your program.
As you begin to lose weight each week, you’ll find that become more motivated to continue your walking program and continue to lose even more weight.
“It occurred to me, not exactly for the first time, that psychogeography didn’t have much to do with the actual experience of walking. It was a nice idea, a clever idea, an art project, a conceit, but it had very little to do with any real walking, with any real experience of walking. And it confirmed for me what I’d really known all along, that walking isn’t much good as a theoretical experience. You can dress it up any way you like, but walking remains resolutely simple, basic, analog. That’s why I love it and love doing it. And in that respect–stay with me on this–it’s not entirely unlike a martini. Sure you can add things to martinis, like chocolate or an olive stuffed with blue cheese or, God forbid, cotton candy, and similarly you can add things to your walks–constraints, shapes, notions of the mapping of utopian spaces–but you don’t need to. And really, why would you? Why spoil a good drink? Why spoil a good walk?”
― Geoff Nicholson
Once you have achieved your goal weight, it’s important not to revert to your old ways of eating and living, but instead continue to eat well balanced meals, watch your caloric intake and go for an invigorating walk daily. People who maintain their weight loss over a long period of time are those who continue a walking program and continue to eat a healthy diet.
In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists examined the independent effects of walking on long-term weight control and found that walking reduced the amount of weight gained by the participants over a 15 year period of time. The greatest benefits were to women who were the heaviest at the beginning of the study.
In addition to those results the examiners also found that the greater amount of time walked, on average, yielded better results in the women’s lives.
The authors reported an association between walking and weight change and found that the higher walking levels – or amounts of time and energy expended – were associated with a greater likelihood of weight loss and maintaining that loss.(3)
Fast paced walking with healthy eating is hugely effective to lose weight – no matter who you are, how much weight you have to lose, or whether you can only manage to walk 1 or 2 blocks before being completely out of breath. It doesn’t take an Olympic sized exercise program to lose weight, but it does take a bit of time and some effort.
“There is this to be said for walking: it is the one method of human locomotion by which a man or woman proceeds erect, upright, proud and independent, not squatting on the haunches like a frog.
Little boys love machines. Grown-up mean and women like to walk.”
― Edward Abbey, Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast
If you’ve already been taking daily walks then it might not be the walking that’s the problem, but rather the pace at which you are walking. Daily strolls are far different from fast paced walking. You don’t need to be a race walker, but you do need to raise your heart rate.
Now that you have taken the time to read all the way to the end here, your assignment for today is: Get up from your computer, tablet or smartphone, put on your best walking shoes and go outside. Walk for a minimum of 15 minutes, even if it’s just a couple times around the block. Thank you.
(1) MayoClinic: Walking: Trim your Waistline, Improve Your health
(3) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Further Evidence for the Benefits of Walking
(4) Wanderlust: A History of Walking
(5) MayoClnic: Get Walking with this 12-week Walking Schedule
(6) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: More People Walk to Better Health
(7) Runners World: If You are Walking for Health, Be Brisk
(8) NSH: Walking for Health
(9) fitSugar: How to Walk off 10 pounds
(10) MayoClinic: Walking: IS it enough for weight loss