Walking the Walk

walkingWhat is preventing you from not walking more, or not as often as you would like? Unfortunately for me, I am very susceptible to the weather. I hate the rain, wind and cold and really have to force myself out into it. While I would always like to take a post-dinner walk, I find evenings are when I’m the laziest and it’s too easy to just stay home.

What about you? Are there specific aspects of your life which inhibit making walking a daily experience? If you are truly committed to improving both your physical and mental health through walking, what is hindering you from reaching that goal?

Take a walk, by yourself, and assess your life. Are you spending your free time in the ways you would like? Could your work-life balance use a little balancing? Are your friends a distraction? Is your neighborhood unsafe? Think about all the excuses you give yourself for not walking and tackle them one by one. Only you can make the change you want to see.

Walking more can truly change not only how you feel, but also your outlook on life. Mindfully giving yourself a daily walk is a precious gift. Give it today.

Image courtesy of nenetus

Time to Move!

exercise-walkingYou are probably reading this sitting down. There have been many studies in recent years about how bad sitting is for you but with so many of us desk-bound due to our jobs, it’s hard to get off our bums sometimes. Even after switching to a standing desk and averaging about 5 kilometers of walking a day, I wonder if I move enough. And how much is enough to counteract the perils of sitting?

Thankfully, some clever researchers looked into it. Using previous studies from the US, Australia and Western Europe the team evaluated which groups of people had the highest mortality rate based on a sitting/exercising ratio. What they found was that daily sitting time was not associated with increased mortality in those who were categorized as the most active. Interestingly, those that sat the least but were also the least active had a significant increased risk of dying during the studies’ follow-ups. Exercise is important. You can get more details about the study, as well as lots of warnings against TV watching, in The Lancet.

The researchers interpreted their findings like this: “High levels of moderate intensity physical activity (i.e., about 60–75 min per day) seem to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with high sitting time.” Now while an hour-plus of exercise a day sounds overwhelming, it needn’t be taken all at once. A brisk walk for only 15 minutes, four times a day meets that goal. If you aren’t sure when you can find the time to walk more, here are some tips to sneak in walks throughout your day.

Image courtesy of nenetus

The Experience of Walkability

city-walkingPeople walk for many reasons – exercise, transportation, dog ownership. Your immediate surroundings, whether home, work or school will influence how much walking you do for pleasure. If a place makes you want to walk around, we say it has walkability. I love walkable places because I love to walk. Cities who have transformed their neighborhoods into walking entertainment zones get my feet.

Walkability has become a hot issue for towns because there is a lot of money involved. Local shops and restaurants do better when people can just stroll right in. A growing number of people want to live somewhere where daily amenities are a walk away which means real estate prices in these neighborhoods are higher. But the secret sauce to creating walkability can be somewhat of a puzzle, and what works in one town may not necessarily work in another.

Because I view walking as a daily experience (versus exercise, chore, etc.) I of course want to be engaged in some way. For me to call a place walkable it needs to offer entertaining stimulation – be it shops with big windows, public art, trees, cafes with sidewalk seating as well as a belief I’m not in danger of being crushed by a car and crossings that favor the pedestrian versus the driver. Other people are nice too, because that gives life to a street and a living, breathing street is one you want to be on.

Unfortunately, it’s not just enough to make a street walkable and call it a day. Walkable streets need to be easily connected to create walkable areas. Having a choice of streets to wander around, not to mention a wider shopping choice for errands means more people will walk out and stay out.

The end result of creating appealing places to experience on foot will be not only a more engaged community but a healthier one too. No one likes being told they have to walk – why not make them want to walk?

Image courtesy of UrbanGrammar via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

A Walking Hole in One

walking-golfersThe Ryder Cup was this past weekend – for golf fans this is an obvious statement. For those who aren’t so into the links, the Ryder Cup is a golf tournament held every two years which pits a US team against one from Europe. Seeing highlights in the news made me remember a study I recently came across which looked at if the walking that goes along with golfing was good exercise.

The study was done out of Harvard Medical School and looked at golfers who walked the 18 holes. They concluded that in terms of intensity this about equals a brisk walk, but still advise golfers to add in some higher intensity exercise every week for more cardiovascular benefits. In fact, the World Golf Foundation estimates walking 18 holes is the equivalent to a 5 mile walk and burns about 2,000 calories.

For sporty types who may not be able to participate in higher intensity activities due to injury, golf is a good substitute. There is even a Walking Golfer website that offers course reviews and walkability ratings. Let’s forget about the physical health benefits for a moment, the stress reducing benefits that come from being in nature are another great reason to take up golf. Fresh air, green rolling hills; you can feel yourself relaxing already, can’t you?

So golfers, go out and tout the health benefits of your sport – just be sure to leave the cart parked.

Image courtesy of D.Hilgart via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-SA

Brain Break

brain-breakHaving a brain break is a great way to get a perspective on what’s happening elsewhere in your life. Everyone probably has their preferred method of relaxing their head, be it reading, listening to music, watching movies or going out with friends. Mine of course is walking and I’ve found the more I walk, the more I need to walk.

There have been a few studies recently looking at the positive effects walking can have on brain fatigue. This is what I call fuzzy brain or simply overload – when I’m just too overwhelmed or exhausted to make one more decision. The days when a question like ‘what’s for dinner’ can send me straight out the door for a post-work/pre-evening walk. This study for example found people who walked in a natural environment had decreases in levels of anxiety and rumination (compulsively dwelling on something negative or stressful) as well as better cognition, useful for complex working tasks compared to a group who walked for the same amount of time in an urban setting. Another work-related benefit is an active commute. This study out of the UK found that people who walked (or biked) to work reported better psychological well-being over car commuters, including an ability to concentration better.

It took me many years of walking to realize this is an activity my body and mind crave. Luckily, I’m aware enough of when I’m feeling all itchy and distracted, going for a walk will at least calm me a little bit, if not completely cure whatever is ailing me. Try it next time you are feeling stressed – I can almost guarantee it’ll probably work better than chocolate!

Image courtesy of Sdmania @FreeDigitalPhotos.net