The body is born to inherently move, which is exciting and amazing. When we stop moving or are in one position for too long, such as sitting, the body starts to talk back to us. This can lead to pain, stiffness, or decreased flexibility and strength. Often, the best medicine is to make walking part of our daily routine.
Walking is one of the most prescribed forms of exercise and movement. The recommendation is to get 150 minutes of cardiovascular activity per week, and walking is a perfect form of this. The idea is to walk briskly, and get your heartrate up above resting level, almost so that it is difficult to carry on a conversation. This works the heart muscle, and helps to keep our cardiovascular system up to speed. Speaking of “speed,” how fast you walk is often correlated with your general health and thus walking at a fast pace is a great exercise to keep up with.
Another benefit of walking is that it can decrease our pain and stiffness. For example, research shows that with many forms of back pain, walking is extremely helpful in alleviating this and keeping us active. The muscles and bones of our body respond well to the weight-bearing of a walk, and also the movement and elongation of our muscles. The actual strength in our muscles can improve by walking as well, especially our core and our leg muscles.
Taking daily walks can also help us to achieve the proper amount of “steps per day” that we need to stay healthy. There are many step-counters and watches out there now that will track your steps per day and keep us on track. It is recommended to take 10,000 steps a day, which is five miles in total. This can be broken down into shorter walks, but the goal remains the same in terms of total distance. You can walk on even surfaces with no hills for a less vigorous approach and add hills or inclines for more intensity as well.
Walking can be made into a mindfulness or meditation practice as well. Thus, when you are walking outside with mindfulness this can give you a chance to see all that is around you in nature and remind us how fortunate we are to live on this earth. The act of walking and the rhythmic feel to it can be very calming, and induce a meditative feel to it thus decreasing our stress in our bodies and allowing our parasympathetic “rest and digest” regulatory system to do its job. This can help to decrease our stress hormone cortisol, and even induce endorphins which are the “feel good” chemicals in our body.
To recap, walking is a great form of exercise for the heart and cardiovascular system, our muscles and bones, it can help to decrease pain and stiffness, and regulate our hormones and help us to feel an improved mood. Remember that walking is often considered the best medicine, and add walking into your daily routine to feel great and reap all of the benefits of it!