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“Walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.” – Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens routinely walked 20 miles a day. French Women Don’t Get Fat author, Mireille Guiliano advocated walking as her primary source of exercise in her best-selling book. Heidi Klum, Jessica Alba, Geri Halliwell and Katy Perry also have been known to favor power walking as their exercise of choice. Could it really be that simple?
In a word. Yes.
In 2010, one of my first fitness posts centered around the idea of walking for routine exercise. And while pounds aren’t shed quickly, and I’m not drenched in sweat to show for my efforts unless I put in a strong 5+ mile power walk, I still claim walking as my exercise of choice.
Real Simple recently chose walking as the cover story of their February issue and while in 2010 I shared eight immediately noticeable benefits, RS shared a handful of health benefits that if you are still on the fence about walking, may just provide that resolute nudge.
By no means am I condemning other forms of exercise. There are many ways based on our interests, passions, personalities, lifestyles and talents, in which we can fit aerobic activity into our daily lives; however, regardless of your age, don’t overlook walking simply because it appears simple. With the proper form, pacing and consistency, walking can be a very valid and rewarding form of exercise.
Health Benefits of Walking:
1. Strengthens Memory
According to a study done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, participants who walked 40 minutes three times a week, increased the part of their brain that controls memory and emotion.
2. Decrease Heart Disease
With the gradual increase in heart rate that walking provides, cardiovascular health improves.
3. Maintain weight
Walkers who choose to walk whenever the opportunity presents itself: leaving the car in the garage, walking from one errand to the next, taking the stairs, etc – are less likely to gain weight as they aged.
4. A Mood Booster
The benefits of only a ten minute walk can boost your mood for the two hours that follow according to Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood with Food and Exercise by Dr. Robert Thayer
5. Decrease Risk of Some Cancers
Real Simple revealed via a study done by the American Cancer Society that a one hour walk may reduce a woman’s likelihood for breast cancer by 14%, and a 2005 study revealed that colorectal cancer was 60% less likely to occur in patients who walked six or more hours a week.
6. Prevent Osteoporosis
Since walking is defined as a weight bearing activity, it strengthens your bones by increasing their density which in turn staves off osteoporosis and helps diminish arthritis.
7. Soak up Your Vitamin D
Since most often the walk of choice is done outside, you are also absorbing the gift of the sunshine – vitamin D. From strengthing your bones to strengthening your immunity, consider your walk a two for one.
8. An Opportunity to Unwind
This past year I have altered my walks so that I am taking them after school has ended and before I sit down and type. It provides the perfect buffer and separation that I need in order to clear my mind for writing. The gift of walking is that I don’t think about the actual process and can work through things in my mind or not think about anything at all. And most importantly, I step away from my have-tos and get lost enjoying 20-30 minutes with my dogs as they are gleefully trotting along down the sidewalk.
One of the essentials of living a simply luxurious life is recognizing the simple habits that can make a tremendous difference in our lives. And at the same time, it is important to eliminate what we are doing that we don’t enjoy, and replacing them with tasks that we not only love but have multiple benefits that enhance the quality of our lives. Walking has been the habit that has increased the quality of my life in a variety of ways. Now, if I loved swimming or running, I could probably say the same thing, but I don’t. I genuinely love walking, and with all of the added benefits, it has become the cornerstone of my fitness regimen. Perhaps I’ll see you on the sidewalk sometime. Until then, happy walking!
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