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Who hasn’t said, “I’ll exercise tomorrow.” Or, “It’s too cold, too hot, too rainy, too windy to be outside?” Excuses are abundant whether you are a runner, walker, yogi, or still finding your exercise of choice. Your mindset might be procrastination or simply, “I’m too busy.”
If you think walking is boring, and that’s what’s keeping you from it, you may want to revisit this form of activity.
When I came across Annabel Streets’ 52 Ways to Walk: The Surprising Science of Walking for Wellness and Joy, One Week at a Time, I was happy to increase my already substantial commitment. What I learned was so inspiring; her scientific proof alone is motivation.
Whether you rarely walk, usually walk solo or with friends, push a stroller, or have young children or teens at your side, think about walking not only as exercise to keep you healthy but also to give your children important tools they will use for their lifetime.
“You actually can get more from life, one step at a time,” Streets says, and she proves it with ample evidence. She also provides mountains of tips on how to pick up your pace, walk in the wind or rain or use your sense of smell during a walk. You will want to follow in her footsteps when you understand why.
Why You Should Get Moving
Anyone of Streets’ well-researched facts just might get you off your couch or desk chair and out the door more often – and have you taking your kids with you. For instance, she explains why humming as you walk boosts natural immunity. Here are some of her key points and my ideas for what you can do as a family:
- We walk faster when we walk with a purpose. When we have a reason for walking (a place to be, a time to meet), we effortlessly pick up our pace. Our usual saunter becomes a brisk stride, which is good for your heart and lungs.
Try this: Instead of driving, consider walking with your child to a friend’s home, assuming it’s a reasonable distance. Or choose a destination—a store, a relative’s house, a park, the promise of a restaurant for breakfast. Young children typically are delighted to visit a new place or someone special to them.
- We can cut our risk of early death with just a 12-minute walk. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that after 12 minutes of brisk walking, hundreds of beneficial metabolites begin circulating in our bodies. Those few minutes of activity decrease our chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and inflammation.
Try this: Children are more apt to agree to a short walk if you make them the time-keepers—six minutes out, six minutes back. Let children monitor a watch or cellphone timer and set the pace to keep them engaged.
- When we walk in the cold, with our collar bones exposed, we burn through fat at an unprecedented rate. A flash of cold activates our reserves of brown adipose tissue, a rich layer of fat-burning cells that sit in pockets around our neck and shoulders.
Try this: Unwrap your scarf, but keep young children bundled up in cold weather. Most kids adore competitions, so drum up a few to spur them on: Finding a certain color leaf or rock, spotting birds, picking up litter (with gloved hands), racing you or a sibling a short distance to a tree or landmark that’s in view.
- An early morning walk helps us sleep better at night. Exposing our eyes to sunlight within an hour of waking reminds our brain that it is morning, enabling our daily internal clock to set in motion the cascade of hormones that will help us fall asleep in the evening.
Try this: If you can get your children out early in the day to walk with you, they might sleep better as well. As an alternative, try an early evening walk—before or after dinner. Your children might also enjoy singing while they walk or walking in the mud with you.
After two years of the pandemic, new approaches to walking were all I needed to get me moving again. Consider changing your route and even the people you walk with unless those walking companions are your children.
Copyright @2022 by Susan Newman