What’s more emblematic of being human than walking? After all it’s our ability to walk upright (and our handy-dandy opposable thumbs) that sets us apart from the other animals. A baby’s first steps are a huge milestone in physical development, marking the end of being an infant, and the beginning of Toddlerhood—and lots of excitement for the parents! Walking is how our species traveled for thousands of years, often covering long distances in the daily search for food. Today, in some parts of the world people still walk great distances on a daily basis in order to collect water and firewood.
And yet, we sit. We sit at desks, we sit in cars, we sit on the couch. We sit too much and it turns out all that sitting is killing us. Studies have shown that prolonged sitting leads to muscle degeneration, compromised brain function, increased insulin production, restricted blood flow, spinal deformation, and can increase your risk of premature death by as much as 61%. Those are some scary ramifications!
Luckily there’s a simple fix. Walk. As bad as prolonged and excessive sitting is for us, walking is the cure. Barring injury or disability, all of us have the equipment we need to do it, and even better it’s FREE!
Walking is the exercise I always recommend to anyone looking to improve their health and fitness levels, for more than a few reasons. First, as I mentioned above, we all know how to do it, and we already have the equipment (feet and a level surface). Second, we derive immediate benefits from taking a walk. Our blood begins to flow, our head clears of brain fog, we get fresh air and sunlight—both important in their own right, and we’re using muscles in our core to stabilize without putting undo stress on them. We’re also burning energy, which lots of us have in abundance although in stored form. Ahem, love handles. And we can do all this at a comfortable pace on a lunch break, or after dinner, before work, during work meetings….yes walking meetings are a thing! Or you can do what I’m doing right now and work at a treadmill desk. While I’m not getting any fresh air, I am still deriving all the other benefits of walking.
In a perfect world we’d all live walking distance to work, shopping, and social opportunities. Sadly, most of us don’t. Here in the U.S. cars are fact of life, an far too few of our cities are designed with walkability in mind. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make the effort to include more walking in our daily lives. Aside from going outside for a nice 30 minute (or longer) ramble, there are easy ways to get more steps into our day—and they add up.
Here are just a few things I try to do: Park far away from the store when you go shopping. That extra 3 minutes of walking counts. Or if you have several errands in the same general area, park in a central spot and walk to all of them. If you need to drop off packages at your car, it’s still easy enough to get to but you won’t be driving from shop to shop. At work, instead of sending an email or an instant message, walk over to the person’s office/cubicle, and communicate face to face. See if you can pull off some walking meetings too. People are more focused and creative when they are moving, so you’ll get better results and less yawning. And of course, walk your dog. If you don’t have a dog, walk someone else’s dog….borrow a neighbor’s dog, walk a shelter dog, make a friend with a dog….You get the idea.
Walking is something we can all do and need to do more of. I can’t recommend it enough. So get out there and take a walk! And let me know how you felt about it.
P.S, while I’ve been writing this I’ve walked about a half mile on the treadmill with an incline of 8.5. I can’t walk too fast and type at the same time, but it doesn’t matter how fast you go, just GO!