When was the last time you went for a decent walk? I’m talking at least 30 minutes of continuous walking. Whether your answer was today, or that you cannot remember, we should all take the time to recognize how important walking is for a healthy lifestyle.
Combatting two connective tissue disorders, I have come to admit how important exercise is; and not a once or twice a week chore, but a daily choice to feel better. A few years back I acquired a hamster, and for hours he’d be mindlessly running away on a wheel to nowhere. At the time, I was not following any sort of exercise routine but I felt like my hairy little friend knew some sort of secret. Acquiring a dog a year later is what brought the joy of walking into my life. If you are reluctant to commit to such an exercise routine, shelling out for man’s best four legged friend may be the best investment you will ever make.
Pooch and I took a 40 minute walk the other day through the gorgeous trails of our county’s park. Being that he is a pug, our three seasons of long walks just began in these cooler September days. We both deserved the one on one time immersed in nature. With the greenery still intact, we refrained from getting lost amongst the maze of trails. Through each territory we were met with scents and pheromones… “Mmmmmmm it smells like sandalwood through here.”
It wasn’t until about the 30 minute mark when I felt it happen. Trust me, I was as happy as the joyful little creature next to me just walking about, but at that 30 minute mark… everything changed. It was if someone (or something) just swooped by with a needle and injected me without my knowledge. I thought to myself, “Endorphins!” You know, I really haven’t taken any long walks since spring. I forgot how “high” you can get from walking. This is grrrrrrreat!!!
My heart was fluttering like butterfly wings. My breath was filling my body with each inhale. I rode out this wave with Richard Chesher’s Breathing exercise which I shared in Part 7 of my Spiritual Journey of Healing: Toroidal Wave a Flowing (http://yoga4eds.tumblr.com/post/49521798156/toroidal-wave-a-flowin). I was in heaven… or possibly, somewhere better.
On my drive home from the park, I was juggling thoughts of how important it is to walk. “If people just took a walk for 30 minutes a few days a week they would all have far less problems!” Remembrance of scientific studies I have read which concluded that walking was more effective, in the long run, than anti-depressants started surfacing. Even in comforting talks to the men in my life that need to exercise but scoff at the thought agreed they would give walking a shot. You have to think: the automobile was mass produced when? The computer? Even the television? We are all caught in a wave of mass sedentary sadness. The genes, in our bodies right now, are accustomed to taking well over 10,000 steps a day. Now, we average about 5,000, maybe 6,000 steps a day. Australia and Switzerland both average over 9,650 steps daily. Amish men take an average of 18,000 steps a day! We’re only hurting ourselves.
So what will it take? A walking buddy? If you’re unable to give a four legged friend a home, find a human buddy. Create your own walking buddy! Talk a friend or a loved one into taking a walk with you. There is no better gift than the gift of health. We all owe it to ourselves. Release the power of endorphins. Find a local trail and set sail! Just don’t forget your warm up stretch and slower paced cool down.
From the American Heart Association:
Research has shown that the benefits of walking and moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
- Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
- Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Improve blood lipid profile
- Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
- Enhance mental well being
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
- Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes
There really are so many benefits for such a simple activity!
Citations: Follow up study to the one published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1999.
Leith, L. M. (1998). Exercising your way to better mental health. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.
A Harvard Medical School study published in 2005 found that walking fast for about 35 minutes a day 5 times a week or 60 minutes a day 3 times a week had a significant influence on mild to moderate depression symptoms.
Walking can relieve depression, anxiety, and stress. Just one 30-minute walk may make you feel better when you’re down, University of Texas researchers found. Head out for 90 minutes five times a week and you’ll get the biggest boost, according to a new study from Temple University. One possible explanation: Walking helps the body produce endorphins, the mood-boosting chemicals linked to “runner’s high.”