Recently, I have fallen in love with walking. But my relationship with walking has not always been kind and cordial; there was a time not too long ago where I considered walking an amateur sport at best, a futile way for older people to stretch their legs. I would have never imagined going out for a walk and considering it an exercise or even an activity worth pursuing. Running was the outlet for me. Running gave me the adrenaline boost; in comparison, walking was lame.
As we grow out of our adolescent, ignorant selves, we learn to adapt and adjust to things as they present themselves to us. We accept truths that don’t match or fit our perceived perspectives or feigned definitions of ourselves. It so happened that during the pandemic, I learned to appreciate the act of walking. And it is slowly changing my life.
If you have yet to embed walking as a daily activity in your life, then you are seriously missing out on a good thing. It took me a while to notice the absence of walking in my life. The realization came during the pandemic, as I got used to the dramatically slower pace of life, living in constant lock-downs. Adrenaline was less of an incentive to go out anymore; I didn’t need to long for runner’s high every time I stepped out the door to exercise. I just needed to get outside. Walking fit a mold that was missing in my life.
There exists a long list of boons that justify referring to walking as a super-activity. But it is, and I think not enough people are aware of the plethora of benefits packaged in this simple activity. So here goes:
It boosts physical health
The first, more obvious point presents resounding evidence of increased physical health with daily walking. The results require minimal investment, anywhere from 30 minutes a day of strolling at a brisk pace. With daily walking, your body enjoys increased cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness; this further reduces the risks of heart disease. Walking reduces body fat and increases muscle strength and endurance. It is also great at managing blood pressure and cholesterol. It can also improve sleep.
These rewards speak for themselves and only begin to scratch the surface with walking. While I appreciate the importance of good physical health and work hard at maintaining a favorable balance, I am more interested in other benefits of walking daily.
The Mental Side
Things get more interesting. Walking helps improve mental health. It reduces anxiety, depression, and overall negative moods while reducing symptoms of social withdrawal. In the era of social lock-downs, I cannot relate to a better set of rewards than the reduction of social withdrawal. Is there anybody out there…
Walking helps boost your mood. It increases blood flow and circulation to the body and brain, positively influencing your nervous system, which can combat stress. And all of it is possible with a brisk walk; even the release of endorphins that create happiness and euphoria are possible while walking.
The Creative Boost
Here is where my attention seriously lies. Walking has the potential to boost creativity by a significant amount. (not only because of the environment but the act of walking itself) .In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, college students and adults measured their creative thinking responses after walking and sitting. Not surprisingly, those participants tested after walking gave consistently more creative responses when asked to think about alternate uses for common objects. The study also tested the creative responses of participants walking on a treadmill while staring at a blank wall. Not surprisingly, their responses were consistently more creative than those sitting as well. Walking, even indoors or surrounded by an uninspiring environment, can increase creativity. Overall, the study found that creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when participants were walking, and the creativity boost remained even after the walk.
I am reminded of Ancient Athens, a city marked by history and renowned thinkers. Aristotle, Socrates, Plato: all impactful thinkers and philosophers of their time, creative beyond belief; all pronounced walkers. Aristotle was named a peripatetic, or one who paces. He had a unique habit of strolling and walking while teaching, a trait that must have facilitated his ability to talk and think. Similarly, Socrates philosophized while standing and walking. Ancient Greek philosophers had this intuitive practice of walking, and the era remains revered as one of the most prolific golden ages for thinking that has ever lived.
The ease and practicality of walking
We save the best for last. My absorption with walking as an essential daily practice comes from its enormous ease and practicality. You can walk anywhere, at any time, and with little investment of time and energy required. Walking will not take the sails out of you, nor will it consume large chunks of the day. Walking can even replace other, more harmful modes of transportation, only requiring a twist of ingenuity or efficiency. The potential to walk is nearly ubiquitous. All you need is to readjust the timetable to engineer some walking time in the day.
Walking offers a window into the outside world and opens the door to new experiences and perspectives. I have begun walking daily and often replace vehicular fuel combustion with the burning of human calories. The biggest boon has come in the form of creativity. I have noticed early on how stimulated my mind appears when I walk. Without sensationalizing, I often find myself overwhelmed with new ideas when I walk. It has positively affected an increased output of ideas for writing. And I look forward to walking now; the activity illuminates a bright spot of my day. Often, as I pace briskly around in search of new ideas and illuminations, I settle on a runner in the distance and reflect on how foolish I was once to consider the practice of walking so futile and unrewarding. Quite the opposite: walking is the best activity you can do. I implore you not to miss out on it.