To empathize: walk in my shoes. To be authentic: walk your talk. To behave boldly: walk on the wild side. To reminisce: walk down memory lane. To promote wellness: take a walk.
Walking doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. Low Intensity Steady State cardio (LISS) is indisputably good for us. LISS involves elevating your heart rate with activity, up to 50% of its maximum, and then maintaining it for 30 minutes minimum. A brisk walk will prevent, or manage, heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, help maintain a healthy weight, strengthen our bones and muscles, and improve our balance and co-ordination. In one study participants who reported moderate activity (LISS) were 3.1 times more likely than inactive ones to be healthy agers.
But walking offers more than physical benefits. Mental wellness tops my list. I take a walk every day with a sole purpose of spending time alone with my mind. Some days my thoughts may be as mundane as planning menus and social outings. Other days I may wrestle with negative reflections. If I cannot turn a negative into a positive, I attempt to neutralize it — to enjoy the day ahead. Or I summon happy thoughts or recall things for which to feel grateful. Often I focus on my surroundings, paying attention to nature, public art, architecture, intriguing individuals.
- enhances our mood,
- promotes overall physical well-being,
- stimulates our minds, and
- reduces stress.
When out and about, I consciously control any inklings of “walker rage”, that is impatience with other walkers on sidewalks and paths. For example, rather than feel annoyed when following a group of teen-agers who block my way by their slower pace, I silently commend them for walking instead of sitting in a bus or car. When hiking Pinnacle Peak, I overheard a realtor negotiating a deal on his cell phone. Again, I suppressed any displeasure at his interruption of my peaceful space and appreciated how he managed to incorporate fitness into his work day. (Of course he lapped me so was soon out of earshot anyway.)
Set a goal to take a walk every day. Once we start our regime of walking briskly for at least 30 minutes a day, we’ll soon go for longer, 45 minutes, an hour, and then we may even be motivated to try new exercises. After all, a well-rounded fitness program includes both low and high intensity days. The study referenced above found individuals who took part in vigorous activity were 4.3 times more likely than inactive ones to be healthy agers.
Please share your views on walking. •