Walking. With gyms and fitness centres opening and closing throughout the pandemic, walking is how many of us are getting our exercise over this past year. In fact, in the results from the YMC.ca COVID State of Mom survey,50% of the moms surveyed are fitting walks into their weekly routine to get exercise and to escape the house and have a little bit of me-time.
But is walking good enough to help keep you healthy? While high-intensity activity has its place in our overall health, walking does too. Imagine if your doctor told you he could prescribe you a pill that would strengthen your heart, lower your blood sugar, boost your immune function, boost your energy, extend your life, and improve your mood? You’d happily pop that pill every morning. Well, walking does all that and more (hello, creativity boost!). Think of walking as the underrated exercise with big health benefits, and all you need to get started is a good pair of comfortable shoes.
But let’s be honest, walking can also be boring, especially if you are currently living in an area where you aren’t allowed to socialize with people outside your bubble and you’re walking on your own. But there are ways to add a little zip to your daily step.
I hate to break it to you but the origin of 10,000 steps a day actually dates back to 1965 to a Japanese pedometer called the Manpo-kei which translates to 10,000 step meter. The name was essentially a marketing tool. But it’s not a bad thing. It’s good to have a goal when it comes to walking however, if you are just starting out, 10,000 steps a day can seem daunting. If you're a beginner, start at a lower number and try to increase it weekly to challenge yourself.
If you’re not into meditation or feel you can't do it because you start making a shopping list in your head each time you sit down to try, you aren’t alone. Walking meditation is actually much easier because you have various things you can focus on if your mind starts to wander.
As you walk concentrate on the sensations you normally wouldn’t give a second thought to; how the sun feels on your face, or the breeze blowing your hair. The sound of your footsteps or the rustle of your jacket as your arms swing. Can you hear birds? Traffic? What does the ground underneath your feet feel like? What can you smell in the air? Each time your mind starts to wander, re-focus on the sensations.
Like all meditation, start off for short periods of time and work your way up.
We live in a world where we can access podcasts and audiobooks with the touch of a button, many of them free. Use your walking time to delve into the books you don’t have time to read or the podcast you never have time to listen to because there’s too much on your plate. As an added bonus, listening to an audio book or podcast also helps take you out of your mind and stop negative thoughts. Think of it as a time to reclaim your brain.
Caveat: Always listen at a volume low enough that you can still hear what is happening around you.
Mix it up a bit and don't walk at a steady pace the entire time, instead turn your walk into an interval workout. You don’t need a fancy timer. Simply set checkpoints using landmarks. For instance, you can walk at a regular pace to the fire hydrant you see up ahead, and then from the fire hydrant to the next telephone pole you walk at a faster pace. These little bursts add a boost of cardio. Again, if you are new to exercise get the okay from your doctor first and then start off with short intervals – 15 seconds for each faster portion and walk slower until your heart rate comes down again.
Anytime you are walking, keep your head up, your shoulder back and down (don’t let them rise up towards your ears), your abs engaged, and step from heel to toe – don’t overstride (take long strides) which can put stress on your lower leg joints.