Look, I know what you’re thinking. Walking? Seriously?! He can’t be serious. Has he gone soft? What’s he thinking now?!
Yes, walking. After spending the past month taking daily walks, I think it’s become a part of my daily routine, and it’s something that you will probably enjoy as well. Let me explain.
When it comes to walking, we tend to think of these guys. Power walking along at a brisk pace, in their track suits that say “I Love Kenneth Cooper” on the back, and seriously working on their cardiovascular fitness. Most of you, myself included, scoff at the idea that simply walking around is extremely beneficial to your cardiovascular health. High intensity interval training, in all of its forms, as the epitome of efficient training. In reality, it is; you can’t get a better bang for your cardio buck than HIIT. Unfortunately, most people don’t like sprinting until they feel like they’re going to puke, slowing down for a little while, then repeating the process. 6 or more times.
I’m still a fan of sprinting. In fact, the very people that don’t like feeling maximal effort exertion are probably the ones that need to be doing it in the first place. If you’re not used to physically exerting yourself, it’s likely that you’re also not used to looking great at the beach. Am I right?!
We know that the many variations of squats, deadlifts, presses, chin-ups, rows, push-ups, and sprints are the best things that can be done for performance and aesthetics. Along with a clean diet, you won’t look or feel as good as you do when you’re lifting heavy. While we’re all about training hard, we tend to forget about the little things that actually do make a difference. Walking is one of those things. We can scoff about it all day, but the research shoes time and time again that regularly walking is beneficial to your health. If you’re used to higher intensity forms of cardio, walking tends to be considered something you do to get from your car to the gym, or it’s part of your trip to work, or you’re stuck doing it if you have a dog. Odds are, you do in fact need to walk more for your health.
The heart healthy benefits are nice and all, but that’s not why I like going for walks. I like them for what they do to your head! Today I have my exercise physiology final, and while the 5 hour class periods were rough, I had developed the habit of taking a walk during breaks for class. I never had more than half an hour, and the walks were always less than a mile. During lunch, I’d turn on a podcast or lecture while eating. And walking. Multitasking at its finest!
Even during smaller breaks, when I could only lap Adelphi’s track once or twice, I’d head upstairs to do it. Sure, it was nice to pump some blood through my system after being stuck at a desk for hours at a time, but the psychological benefits were what I’m after. A ten minute walk will give you an energy boost and clear your mind like few other things can. If you fight mental or physical fatigue through the day, give up the cup (or 4) of coffee, skip your ‘power nap’, and take a walk.
Listen to music, watch the birds, count trees as you pass them. Hell, take the time to call a friend. Just make sure that you’re moving a little quicker than stroll in the park. It doesn’t need to be that fast, just enough to stimulate a small physiological response. You don’t need to be dripping sweat and gasping for air; that’s what your sprints are for. You should feel your heart rate a higher than it is at rest, and you should feel a nice ‘natural’ high from the endorphin release that exercise brings about. It only takes a few minutes, and you’ll feel great.
If you’re interested in burning calories; sure you’ll burn calories. If you’re interested in aerobic fitness; sure, you’ll contribute to your overall health. We tend to think of weight loss and heart health as the important reasons to do regular aerobic work, and there are probably more effective ways to exercise if those are your goals. When it comes to your overall wellness, it’s not just about physical health, it includes mental health as well. Most of us go through each day stressing out about something, and never take the time to clear our heads and relax, even if for a few moments. Without that time, we’re bound to take out this stress on our bodies, our families, and our coworkers. Do you like when other people contribute to your stress? Then don’t contribute to theirs!
Walking. It’s simple, right? If I asked you to go for one or two walks a day, you could easily do that, no questions asked. 10 minutes here or there is easy to come by, if you plan for it the right way. How simple is it? Well, if you park in the back of the parking lot, and take the stairs to your office, you just earned yourself two walks. One on the way in, and one in the way out. Now if you head to the gym after dinner to crank out some chin-ups, push-ups, and squats, you’re in business!
Walking is great for your physical health, but that’s not why I think you should walk. A few small walks through out the day can do wonders for decreasing your overall levels of stress, and clear your mind so that you can work harder in school or at work. Think of them as intellectual intervals! If you’re still thinking that I’ve gone soft, I’ll use the cliche “Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it.” Sure, walking may seem like something your grandparents do, but you’re walking for a different reason. In the week after you first read this, try to take at least 1 ten minute walk every day. How simple is that? It’s less than 1% of your week. You don’t have any excuses.
After a week, when you feel less overall stress, you performed better in school or work, and you have more energy to spend with your friends and family, you’ll be a believer.
Now, I’m off to ace my final. Then I’m going for a walk.