Why I have learned to love walking

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Why Walk?

I have a super power. I can come up with a million excuses for any workout...

Running? I get cramps and it hurts my hip. Weight Lifting? I’ll be sore for two days after my workout. Swimming? I don’t like the smell of chlorine and I want to be able to listen to music. Pilates/Reformer Machine? Enjoy it, but it’s too expensive. Spinning? Well, you get the idea…

I was recently diagnosed with PCOS and my doctors have been advocating walking and yoga as two exercises devoid of negative pitfalls. They are low-impact and help to reduce cortisol levels (which is super important for PCOS sufferers). At first I was pretty resistant to cutting out a lot of the high-intensity workouts that I enjoy, but I have learned that there is so much more to walking. I just needed to open up my mind a bit. Once I did, I was hooked! I realized that you don’t have to be super sporty to be able to enjoy it…and that it can be done solo with some headphones tuned into a podcast, or with a group. Walking isn't flashy or sexy, but there is a ton of evidence showing that walking regularly is like a wonder drug - it gets you in decent shape…and a whole lot more!

Lowers Weight Gain Percentage

There is proof that slow and steady wins the race! A 2013 Australian study tracked the weight of 822 subjects and found that, over the course of four years, the average person gained 3.5 pounds. But the participants didn’t pack on the pounds equally. Those who walked to work gained, on average, two pounds less than did people who took their cars, even when the car commuters were physically active at other times of the day.

Decreases Energy Dips

Having a big honkin’ dinner can be disastrous for your blood-sugar levels and leave you feeling crummy. You can help this if you time your walks accordingly. A 2013 study published in Diabetes Care found that three 15-minute post-meal walks each day were more effective at regulating blood-sugar levels than was a single 45-minute walk midmorning or in the afternoon. Try taking a 5 minute stroll after lunch to help you derail your drowsy days!

Workouts Become Work In's

Aside from the physical benefits, walking has so many mental benefits! Getting outdoors and taking a stroll is a fantastic way to sync your mind and your body. Walking meditations can be tremendously powerful and are a wonderful complement to a seated meditation. Beginning to notice the temperature of the air, the sounds outside, as well as your location in space can aid in dialing into yourself, making you aware of your present physical and mental state.

Lifts Your Spirits

10 minutes of walking at the pace that you were late for an appointment can boost your mood for 2 whole hours! It increases your optimism and serves as time for reflection.

Strengthens Your Memory

Stretching exercises combined with walking will increase the size and activity in the hippocampus (part of the bran that controls memory and emotion). The movement helps to increase blood flow and growth in connections between cells.

Protects Against Heart Disease

Gradually getting your heart rate up is good for your cardiovascular health…no matter the activity. By walking daily, you can lower your blood pressure. By increasing your distance, you can reach the same caloric burn as a runner (about 1 1/2 times the distance of a runner).

Decrease Cancer Risk

Physical activity improves metabolism, regulates hormone levels (hello PCOS), and enhances immune function.  Walking is no different. An hour of daily walking has been shown to reduce a woman’s likelihood of a breast cancer diagnosis by 14 percent. I’ll take those odds! 

Ready to take your stroll to the next level?

I've included three of my favorite walking workouts below. These routines maximize the health perks of walking. All are designed for the outdoors, but the first two can also work on a treadmill.

1. Long Walk

Total time: 2+ Hours

A consistent, long walk at a slow pace. Think hiking. Put on your shoes, and get out into the world. Enjoy the sunshine. Bring a friend of a pooch (and some water)! Long walks are some of the best ways to explore a new city (one of my 2018 goals)!

2. The Fast and Slow Walk

Total time: 30 minutes.

  • Walk at a comfortable pace for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Walk quickly for 1 minute.
  • Return to a comfortable pace for 1 minute.
  • Repeat this pattern for a total of 30 minutes.

3. Bodyweight and Walking Intervals

Total time: 15 - 30 minutes.

  • Walk at a comfortable pace for 5-10 minutes.
  • Walk at a moderate (slightly quicker than comfortable) pace for 5 minutes.
  • Perform a bodyweight exercise for 10 reps.
  • Walk at a moderate pace for 5 minutes.
  • Perform a bodyweight exercise for 10 reps.
  • Repeat until you have performed a total of 5 bodyweight exercises.
Meghan Ann Martin