We all know that walking is a good thing.
It’s interesting to see just how good it is, though. There’s a growing number of studies demonstrating that walking out-performs (steady-state, low-to-moderate intensity) running and jogging in several physiological markers. At the very least, walking seems to provide the same benefit as going out for a run, without many of the drawbacks.
As a culture, we used to be big time walkers. There’s plenty of evidence to indicate that our earliest ancestors walked… and walked. Many would argue “it’s in our genes”.
It used to be a necessity. It’s not anymore… because we’re oh-so-advanced-n-stuff. Now, it’s a “when I have time” leisure event for most. (All you urban folk have a serious advantage here.)
It’s recommended that we aim for 10,000 steps per day, which is approximately 5 miles. The average American barely gets 5,000 per day.
How do you rank?
One of my favorite go-to health guys regularly discusses the science, physiology, and even the history and genetics of walking. This man is a time-tested elite athlete and health guru. For years, he has strongly encouraged all health-seekers to include walking in their overall lifestyle and exercise regimen. He’s not even talking “brisk” walking, necessarily. Walking at a moderate pace seems to provide ample benefit.
In one particular article of his, he issued a challenge to his readers (who include a vast number of high performance type folks). In addition to all our running, working out, sporting activities and so on, get back to walking. Daily. Ideally, for an hour straight, but can be broken up into multiple walks (or other low-level aerobic activity, like light cycling, hiking, or swimming).
I took his challenge. I’m just finishing my 4th week of daily walking, in addition to the other stuff I do for exercise: sprinting, resistance training, cycling, some longer distance running, etc. Most days, I’m not hitting the hour mark. But it’s a least 30 minutes every day, and most days have more than one walk.
My dog is definitely loving this.
My gluteal, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip & pelvic area muscles are all liking this shift in range of motion, too. The full stride of walking vs. “jogging” offers some nice benefits!
I also noticed increased knee pain right away, so I knew I had to tweak something. Apparently, I had forgotten how to walk like my ancestors! Clearly, gait, stride, foot strike/placement, pace, walking surface, and footwear are all important elements to be discussed in another article.
The (lack of) appeal of walking…
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t used to take walking too seriously.
I would take the kids out for walks in the stroller when they were little… take the dog out… go for shorter walks and hikes with the kids as they got bigger… go for walks when visiting with a friend…
I didn’t think it was “enough”. It isn’t “hard” enough or challenging enough. Walking definitely isn’t “sexy”, like Cross Fit, or hill sprints, or training for triathlons!
I suppose I always felt like I had accomplished more if I worked up a really good sweat by running, or cycling, or working out. NOT that those things are “bad” now… I just thought I should choose those over walking.
We need to walk. Millions of years of our ancestors walking cannot be a “fluke”. Daily walking (or other low-level aerobic activity) is in our blood.
Slow and steady.
We also benefit from the other forms of exercise, like sprinting and lifting heavy things a few times each week, as well as playing.
Why walk? Plenty of reasons… here are a few:
- Older healthy adults who walk briskly live longer than those who don’t.
- Regular walking improves working memory in older adults.
- Healthy adult males who engage in short bouts of brisk walking experience lower resting blood pressure and postprandial triglycerides.
- Studies have demonstrated that walking 30 minutes per day (plus a stress reduction technique and ‘healthy’ diet) can reverse the expression of genes in those with cancer.
- Regular walking improves working memory in older adults.
- Those who take the longest walks take the least medication.
- Walking improves longevity in women over 70 years of age.
- A Yale study revealed that women who walk regularly after being diagnosed with breast cancer have a 45% greater chance of survival than those who are inactive.
- Walking programs improve cognitive ability in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Kids who walk to school are fitter than peers who do not.
- Walking regularly reduces the risk of stroke and heart attack.
- Walking regularly is a good way to keep body weight and body fat levels in check.
Of course, I could go on.
But no matter how many studies espouse the physiological and health benefits of walking, these aren’t even my favorite reasons to walk.
I like some of the more subtle, immeasurable components of walking regularly. Things like how it helps us adapt to stress… gives us time to put things in perspective, sort things out, and chill out when necessary.
All that time outside can help us make more vitamin D. It’s a great time to train our postural muscles, focusing on a strong posterior chain (good curve in the low back, core tight) and head over spine… not stickin’ out in front of us.
It’s also a crafty way to overcome some bad habits and addictions. For example, if you’re an after
dinner snacker or sugar fiend, get your bootocks up and go for a walk instead. Substitute walking for your less-than-healthy choices.
Walking has the highest compliance rate of all forms of exercise. I like that. We should be able to walk for the rest of our lives, virtually anytime, anywhere.
Walking is time to connect with nature. It’s time to be an observer… a “noticer of the small things”. It’s time to count our blessings. It’s time to get out there, move, and experience the world around you.
Tell me about YOU. Are you a walker? How often? How long? Is it your stand-alone activity… or do you do other forms of exercise, too?
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a leading expert in Natural Health & Wellness. She is a Doctor of Chiropractic with 18 years of hands-on clinical experience in the Wellness Practice she shares with her husband, Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat, in Michigan. She is also the proud (home schooling) mom of two rather fabulous youngsters.
Her unique perspective of the science of Wellness provides predictable solutions and transformational results for those struggling with chronic health issues, as well as those seeking lifelong health. To discover her simple strategies for creating better health through nutrition, movement and mindset, regularly visit http://DrMomOnline.com, http://Facebook.com/DrMomOnline and http://Twitter.com/DrMomOnline.
Also, check out her available books at http://amazon.com/author/drcolleen .
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