Exercise does not have to mean running through sand dragging a mile of chain, giving yourself thigh welts from hours and hours of spin class, or popping a blood vessel in your sinuses while lifting anvils. Easy exercise can actually be quite pleasant and surprisingly efficient, and walking is the monarch of pleasant exercise. Here are some reasons to leave the workout machines at home and go for a walk.
6) It’s a workout…really
Walking burns more calories than you might expect -around 190 per hour. Low impact exercise like walking is an effective cardio workout because it uses almost as much energy as a more intense workout like running and it’s way easier on you muscles, lungs, heart, and joints which means you can keep it up for a much longer time. If you’re just starting to add exercise to your routine (or if you’re just a bit lazy) the ease of walking means you will be more likely to stick with it.
5) Get to know your neighborhood
Some of us can go for years without ever really knowing anything about the place where we live. If you drive or take public transit everywhere, you’ll never explore your community beyond the main roads. In suburban areas there are lots of park trails, catwalks, and side streets to explore and in urban cores you may find small parks you didn’t previously know about, alleyway networks, and lots of cool architecture to look at. If you live in the country you already know that there’s no exploring the bushland from your truck. On a walk you may make some interesting discoveries about your local flora and fauna.
4) Connect with nature
For country dwellers this is obvious, but even in cities nature is everywhere. Planned greenspaces, boulevard trees, and even the sun, stars, and sky are all elements of nature you can enjoy in urban spaces. It’s important to connect with nature as often as possible to remember where we came from and tap into the genetic memories of our ancient ancestors who lived only under the sky. Even if your nature connection consists of simply smelling the flowers in your neighbours’ gardens as you pass by, this ritual is a sacred right of all earth-dwelling creatures, including you.
3) Clear your head
If you are facing a challenge, puzzle, or tough decision, going for a walk can reset your mind and freshen your perspective. This can be a really big help for artists facing writer’s block or lack of inspiration. Or maybe you’ve got a coding puzzle that’s driving you crazy. Or perhaps you’re an RPG gamer and you’re ready to tear your hair out trying to solve Zelda’s Water Temple. Whatever your issue, literally walking away from the problem for a little while can pay off.
2) Get your vitamins
It’s not just the exercise aspect of walking that makes it healthy, just being outside is good for you too. You’ve probably heard that we can get vitamin D from sunlight, and it’s true. Your body uses sunlight (more specifically UVB rays) as a catalyst for synthesizing vitamin D3 from other elements in your skin. From there, the D3 is passed through the liver and kidneys where it picks up extra oxygen atoms which transform it into other forms of vitamin D.
1) Mental benefits
Like all exercise, walking stimulates the release of hormones like adrenaline and serotonin, as well as endocannabinoids that have a positive effect on your brain and mind. You’ve heard of the “runner’s high” that comes after an intense run? Well walking can give you a similar high without all the blisters and stiffness the next day. It works like this. Any prolonged physical activity is classified by your cells as “stress”, even if it’s not an activity that you would consider stressful. Your body releases adrenaline as a reaction to perceived stress which in turn activates opioid receptors in the brain which receive naturally occurring endocannabinoid molecules from your bloodstream. These are the same molecules found in marijuana. Your body produces them naturally, even if you’ve never used drugs. Opiod receptors serve the function of numbing pain but a side effect of this function is a euphoric feeling if you are in no pain when they are activated. Is this what straight-edgers are talking about when they say they’re “high on life”?
The benefits of walking go way beyond cardio. You don’t need to push your workout to the extreme in the name of good health. A healthy lifestyle can be as easy as a walk in the park.