We are losing our figures, our good looks, the use of our senses, our health—and some of us are losing our lives as a result of ills that walking could prevent or keep in check.
Think about it. How much do you really walk? It probably goes something like this: get up, shower, walk to car, drive car, walk to desk, sit, walk to coffee, sit, walk to bathroom, sit, etc.
Walking is the first thing a kid wants to do and the last thing an adult wants to give up. Walking is important. We are designed for walking. Literally. Our bodies are made for walking, and instead we’re rolling. Wheels are everywhere and as a result our bodies are roly-poly.
Whether you’re overweight or under-exercised, or already exercise plenty—you need to walk.
Benefits of Walking
Walking saves your heart. According to the book The Magic of Walking “some amount of brisk and invigorating walking every day or every two or three days actually lowers blood pressure and pulse rate and sustains the heart muscle in healthy tone.”
Walking helps people lose weight. An additional 200-300 calories burned per day by increasing your walking will combat the extra 200-300 calories that most people eat. Forget about the gym and health club memberships—start walking and keep your healthy weight in check.
Walking reduces tension. A pleasant, rhythmic walk in nature is calming and allows you to be at peace. Thomas Jefferson was a walker. Napoleon Hill was a walker. These amazing individuals used walking not just as a means of transportation, but as a way to clear their minds.
Walking produces clarity. Walking lets you step away from what is going on and take a holistic look at everything. You get ideas. You get tuned in.
Walking strengthens your feet, your calves, your legs, your lungs and your heart.
If feeling better and looking better don’t motivate you—and why wouldn’t they?—perhaps not being decrepit will. Build up a strong skill of walking and stay away from walkers and wheelchairs in old age.
How to Walk
Walking is something we naturally learn how to do, but we live in a very unnatural environment. Bernarr McFadden writes,
It is only within the last few years that I have really learned how to walk. In order to do so one must acquire an easy gait, every movement must be rhythmic, and the position of the body must be such that you go forward with strides that are made almost without effort.
That gives you a good mental picture of what you should be striving for in your walking. None of this herky-jerky, uncoordinated walking. Move smoothly.
In The Magic of Walking the authors state that the matter of walking better starts in the mind. I agree. We need to see ourselves walking better.
Tips for Walking
Dress for comfort. Wear comfortable shoes. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Strive for the feeling of effortlessness in walking.
Walking is a series of controlled falls. Lean forward slightly. “In a good walking style, the body tilts forward just far enough to keep the center of gravity moving forward in the right mechanical relation to the individual’s natural length of stride,” say the authors of The Magic of Walking.
Your toes should point in the same way your body is going—neither pointed in or out, but forward. The arms should swing relaxed at your sides with your thumbs pointed forward.
Increase the Effectiveness of your Walking
Walking gives you a great chance to work on your breathing. A great way to do this is by doing a breathing ladder. Breathe in one step then breathe out the next. Then breathe in for two steps and out for two steps. Then three. Then four. Go as many steps breathing in / out as you can and then start over. You’ll increase your lung capacity and learn how to use your full lung when you breathe.
Always breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Other breathing patterns can be developed to work on controlling your breath. For example, breath in two steps and then out two steps. Breath in two steps, hold two steps, and then exhale two steps. This develops lung control and conscious awareness of your intake of air. You’re working to establish an awareness of how much air you actually need to breathe in relationship to the activity you’re performing.
I can’t overemphasize how powerful this is.
Incorporating Walking in Your Life
Ideally you live in a walkable neighborhood. You can walk to get groceries, to go to work, and walking can essentially be your established mode of transportation.
Life is not always ideal. If you don’t live in a walkable neighborhood, you can easily incorporate more walking in your life. One thing you can do is to get up earlier and go for a walk in the fresh morning air. You can park your car farther away. In the winter you can walk the mall—many malls allow walkers to come in before the stores open.
You can have walking meetings with employees. You can walk with coworkers. You can walk with neighbors. You can plan for hikes out in the wilderness or at a park.
I’m not a believer in excuses and at this point I think I’ve established the importance of walking, so if you’re serious you will find a way. I know you are a creative person who is capable of devising strategies to get what you want. And if you want a healthy, vibrant, vital, vigorous, and trim body, you will figure out how to walk more.