Walking your way to fitness and health

Walking your way to fitness and health

I’ve always enjoyed walking. As I kid I had to walk to school, a round trip of about three miles. I also had a newspaper delivery round and completed numerous hikes with the Scouts. My main mode of transport up to the age of 18 was, as my Gran called walking, Shank’s pony. If I wanted to go anywhere, I had to walk. As a young adult I did my fair share of backpacking which I also enjoyed immensely. Fast forward a couple of years and I was getting paid to hike well sort of! With nothing more than a rucksack, I learnt to live out of doors for weeks on endhow much simpler life was then!

Like many of you, my walking was reduced to traipsing from the car park to the gym or pushing a shopping trolley around Tesco’s supermarket.  Whereas I once wore out walking boots in a matter of months, I was now able to make a pair of boots last five years or more! I actually fell into the trap of looking for ways to walk lessparking as close as I could to my destination, not walking for pleasure and simply not making the effort to get out on my own two feet.

Then along came Bella, or Bella Wooferton to give her full name. Bella is a Great Dane that was abandoned in a nearby town. I adopted her and suddenly life changed. Now, my day starts and ends with a 45 to 60 minute walk and maybe a 15 to 30 minute walk at midday. We walk an average of 4 miles an hour so I estimate I walk about 30 miles a week, irrespective of the weather. Needless to say, at first this was a bit of a shock to my system but I soon realised that there were numerous benefits to regular walking that I had all but forgotten. These include:

  • Increased calorie output – not a lot but enough that I am a little leaner than I was 6 months ago. I have also reduced the amount of cardio I do and now have more time to focus on strength training
  • My joints ache less – my twice-daily walks are keeping my knees and hips more mobile – it’s like I get two warm ups a day
  • I am more creative – I have some great ideas when I’m out walking and many of my recent articles have come to me when I’ve been out on the hills
  • I get to unplug from technology – no phone, no internet, no distractions! I’m off the grid for an hour or two a day and that helps reduce stress
  • My posture is much improved – I spend a lot of my day sat in front of a PC writing and my regular walks have helped offset the time I spend stooped over my keyboard. My lower back is much less stiff – something I have really noticed when squatting and deadlifting
  • I have more energy – maybe it’s the reduction in cardio or it might be the increased oxygenated blood flow to my brain but I’m certainly more energetic after a walk
  • I recover better from workouts – even though I am training just as hard if not harder than ever, I’m suffering less DOMS. I put this down to increased blood flow and moving about more on a regular basis. My muscles don’t get chance to stiffen up

All in all, walking a couple of times a day had added a lot of my physical and mental wellbeing. Of course, some mornings I would rather stay in bed and sometimes it’s a bit of a rush to walk Bella, eat breakfast, get to the gym, train, and then be ready for my first appointment of the day but the payoff is well worth the investment.

I don’t expect you all to rush out and get a dog after reading this, although if you do I highly recommend Great Danes, but I’d like you to try and make a conscious effort to walk more. Don’t think of it as exercise but as medicine. Big medicine! Did you know that our hunter/gatherer ancestors walked an average of 15 miles a day? And populations that walk a lot suffer less insidious diseases such as CHD, hypertension and diabetes. We are built to walk far and often and, I believe, regular walking can be life enhancing. So, here is my challenge to you: Walk for 30 minutes every day for the next 30 days. I’m betting you’ll feel and maybe even look better one month from now. You may have to get up 30 minutes earlier or watch a few minutes less TV but that is a small investment.

One caveat to my challenge – do not hop on a treadmill and do your walking indoors. This challenge is not about doing more hamster cardio. Get out and experience your local area. Enjoy the sights and sounds and explore. Walking is like meditation on the move and it could be just what your fitness routine is missing.

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