Hey! I hope your day is going well!
If you’re like me than you are pretty excited about the fact that we are finally into the cooler part of the year. If you spent the summer in Florida than you suffered through many months of heat, humidity and yuckiness with great anticipation for the weather that is finally here. Among other things, the cooler temperatures bring with them opportunities to get outside and be more active. During this time of the year, I highly encourage you to make a commitment to take daily walks. Here are a few reasons why some experts would call walking the best exercise you can possibly do.
1. Walking makes you less likely to sit too much. If you read my previous article on the dangers of sitting than you know that excessive sitting (especially for 6 or more hours a day or more than one hour without a break) can have major health consequences. Not only can it aggravate back, neck and joint pain, but it can also contribute to cardiovascular and circulatory problems and even neurological problems.
Taking a daily walk allows you to break the sitting cycle and reduce the negative effects of excessive sitting. This can have a major positive impact on your how you feel and how healthy you are over the long term.
2. Walking works important muscles. The muscles through our lower body and core area are critical muscles to exercise on a regular basis. These muscles are the ones we need to having working well because they are our weight bearing muscles. When these muscles are weak it causes our joints to not be well protected, for injuries to be more likely, for our physical performance to suffer and makes us more likely to eventually lose our balance and be more at risk for having a fall.
Walking is one of the simplest ways to exercise these very important muscles and it is a great supplement to other types of strength or endurance training. Not to mention it requires no equipment and it’s free!
3. Walking helps lubricate and nourish joints. The joints in your body function in a few ways that are different than other body parts. One of those ways is that they do not have a blood supply. In other parts of our body we get oxygen and nourishment through our blood, which circulates constantly no matter what we are doing. Our joints on the other hand can only get their nourishment from synovial fluid, which is released during movement. When we move our joints we stimulate the release of synovial fluid and give our joints the nourishment they need.
Walking gives us an easy opportunity to release synovial fluid in our hips, spine, knees, ankles, feet and shoulders and as we are moving these joints during walking, we are contributing to the health of these joints.
4. Walking helps stimulate your bodies “trash collectors” to get rid of the “trash.” Inside your body there is a system of ducts that carry the waste created by your cells, called the lymphatic system. These ducts have to have movement in order to have the waste moved through them, otherwise it gets stuck. A good visual would be to think of a pond that has pond scum built up on it. That occurs because the water is stagnant. If you think of moving water, like in a river or a pond with a fountain, you will see something different, water without scum. Being that our body is 60-70% water and the fluid in the lymphatic system is mostly made up of water, a similar kind of “scum” builds up in our body when we don’t move enough. This can have detrimental effects on our body over time.
Walking, especially brisk walking, has been shown to stimulate the movement of waste through the lymphatic system dramatically. Some estimates say up to 300% more than when we are not moving. This is an easy way to “take out the trash” and keep our body in a more healthy and energized state.
A few tips on getting the most out of your walk
1. Make sure you are well hydrated before and after your walk. Being that you are working muscles, releasing synovial fluid and stimulating the movement of lymphatic fluid, you must make sure that your hydration level is adequate, otherwise these things will not occur to the maximum potential.
2. Try to walk outside where you can get a little bit of sun exposure and fresh air. If your read my article a few weeks ago on the importance of Vitamin D than you know that it is critical for feeling good and staying healthy. Modest sun exposure is the best way to get Vitamin D and it is far better than getting it through supplements. Even just 15-20 minutes of sun on your skin per day will increase your Vitamin D levels substantially. This can easily be accomplished with a walk outside. Once the 20 minutes are up, than you can cover your skin with a neck towel, hat or jacket if you feel the need to.
3. Walk quickly. The best way I’ve heard this put is “walk like you are in a hurry. It’s no surprise that walking faster is better for you than walking slower. of course, speed is all relative and you want to keep a pace that for you feels like you are walking quickly, but try to push yourself a little bit to get more of the benefits.
4. Find a route that offers some scenery. This is often a critical element to staying engaged while walking. Find a route somewhere that gives you something to look at that you find interesting. Maybe a park or a neighborhood route that you have easy access to. This will make your walk less likely to be boring. Just try to pick a route that allows you to walk for 30 minutes or more.
5. Listen to music, audio books or lectures. In this day and age we have so much available information and entertainment available on our handheld devices that we can always find something interesting to listen to. Check out the app store or the audio store (iTunes for Apple users) and search for audio books or podcasts that peak your interest. I have a client who really enjoys TED talks, which cover lots of different topics. The walk gives you a great opportunity to listen to these things and you can stimulate your mind and body at the same time.
Hopefully this information and these tips will give you a nudge towards making walking a daily exercise habit. Please pass this along to anyone you know who would also find it helpful.