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Walking is the best thing to do for your mind and body

By Lauren Olson, October 8 2019 —

Walking? Pfft. 

I hear you. I have been a competitive athlete and runner my whole life. I’ve never “just walked”. My thought process has always been, “why go through the effort to lace up my shoes, get out the door and take time out of my busy schedule if I’m not going to sweat hard and fast?” Walking has always seemed an elderly activity. And as I refuse to consider the big 30, my ticket into the geriatric club — walking was never my passion.

The universe has taken me down a peg. It has a habit of doing that to us all.  Many an injury later and the addition of a puppy, and my thought process has changed. No word of a lie, I am in better physical and mental shape with a regular walking exercise regime than I ever was pounding out over 30 running kilometres a week running. I’m leaner, happier and injury free. I credit my daily walks for a huge portion of that.

There are all sorts of websites and studies that tell you about walking benefits. The basics include burning fat, boosting metabolism, strengthening your legs and heart, lowering blood pressure and easing stress. These are all great and valid but are not super attractive reasons — they lacked appeal for me. I’m here to re-frame walking for you. Let’s move away from the boring thing you have to do to get from one class to another and focus on a new activity that will make your day better.

Cardio and Fat Burning:

We all know walking is a form of exercise and exercise is part of a healthy body composition. I think the problem that a lot of us run into is that walking can feel too simple. We might feel like it isn’t enough to consider real exercise so why not just skip it. It is worth it, guys. Your heart is going to strengthen just as much with a peppy walking pace as it will during a steady jog. We all need to get over ourselves. Check the ego. This idea that you need to be drenched in sweat and so sore you can’t sit down for the next three days in order to qualify an activity as a workout is ludicrous. Start walking gently. Start walking subtly with humility and connect your mind with your body.

Boosts Mood: 

I can’t say enough about this. We’re all at school. It’s easy to be stressed out, over-caffeinated, exhausted, overwhelmed and, thusly, irritated. The stress and pressure of excelling in school is enough to do real emotional and physical damage. Going for a quick 10 minute walk will clear your mind, give you a breath of fresh air and remind you there is more to life than your immediate problems..

Walking can be both your workout and your chill-time:

 As I mentioned before, your workout doesn’t have to be a super intense gym session or a two hour run. One of my favourite things to do is take my dog for a walk while listening to my favourite podcast. I like to allow myself to unwind and recharge. I know not everyone has a dog but you can borrow a friend’s OR go for a walk by yourself with your music, a good podcast, or even some soothing sounds like rain or the ocean white noise. Find what you need to connect with your body and just start moving.

Increases strength and prevents injury:

 Surprise! Walking (with good form) is going to strengthen your legs, your abs, and your booty. You can even get a good arm workout in there too if you get your arms swinging! Butt seriously. While walking will strengthen your body’s larger muscles, it will also strengthen a whole lot of smaller, supporting muscles that will keep your joints healthy and prevent injury in the future. Keeping good form is important. I don’t recommend walking a long time with a backpack that is too heavy or if any pain crops up or persists. 

Battles seasonal depression and springboards motivation:

We’re heading into winter, guys. That means shorter days and colder temperatures. Let’s face it, winter is long. Damn it, winter is depressing. Before my dog, the thought of voluntarily going for a walk in the cold was a bad joke of misery and masochism. However, I swear that I’ve grown to love even my winter walks. Bundle up and go for a brisk, quick walk even when you don’t want to. You’ll reap the benefits of vitamin D from the sunlight because we’re fortunate enough to see the sun often during our Calgarian winters. And if you get pale like me in the winter, the rosy glow to your cheeks may even counter that perma-basement-dweller tone. It might feel more enjoyable in the moment to stay on the couch sulking about life but the payoff for getting outside to walk is worth it. You will have more energy and motivation to study, clean your apartment or whatever else you’ve been putting off. 

An excuse to get into nature:

 Nature-therapy is a real thing. Walking outdoors is fresh air and exercise for your body and mother’s milk for your soul. Hiking has grown in popularity thanks to Instagram and the insane beauty of our Albertan backyard. However, escaping to the mountains, into the woods or along the beach has been a therapeutic treatment for holistic health since the beginning of time. It might be intimidating to go out to the mountains for someone who doesn’t hike often. But there are a lot of easy, beautiful trails that take less time to get to than work on a week-day morning — Bragg Creek, Elbow Falls, Banff, Canmore and Kananaskis. There are also beautiful inner-city trails like Nose Hill Park, Fish Creek Provincial Park and the River-Walk downtown. You certainly don’t have to climb a mountain to reap the benefits of eco-therapy. Nor do you need to snap any Insta-worthy photos. Sometimes it can be best to just focus on your breath and being present in your own life as opposed to social media. 

So there you have it, not an exhaustive list by any means. But that is a few of the best reasons I can think to add daily walking to your list of non-negotiables. Walking is an activity you can start doing for yourself today. It doesn’t cost you anything and offers so much in return.

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