The OTHER Benefits of Walking

My wife is brilliant. She knows EXACTLY WHERE to ask me a question. In fact, I didn’t even realize this until I was typing those words.

Simply brilliant.

We’ve always enjoyed walking together and we try to do it a lot, but it’s ramped up even more during these challenging days. We live right across the street from a tree lined, hilly, and quiet neighborhood. Technically, we are not part of this neighborhood, but we are a one-minute walk away so we consider it our neighborhood.

There are no sidewalks, but that’s OK because the streets are wide and during a 45 minute walk we may have only four or five cars pass us. And, because it’s hilly and curvy they are moving pretty slow.

The brilliance of my wife is felt by me seven minutes after we leave our house. She knows exactly where to stop talking and ask me a question. And, sure enough I’m happy to answer…until it becomes too much of a struggle.

You see, there’s this really steep hill that’s really long which makes my heart work really hard. In fact, my heart rate spikes into Peak Zone walking up the hill. And, you know what happens when my heart is in the Peak Zone? I get winded. And, you know what happens when I’m winded and trying to talk?

She’s brilliant. She knows exactly where to get me to start talking so she can stop.

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This is only one third of the hill. It gets much steeper around the curve.

We could slow down going up the hill, but that’s no fun. Our entire walk is at a pretty good pace…even up all the hills. It’s intense enough that my heart rate is the Cardio Zone for most of our 45 minute walk. The Centers for Disease Control would call our walk a Moderate Physical Activity.

In other words, while Ava and I are exercising we are also talking and planning and connecting. And, this is what I love about walking for fitness. There are so many OTHER benefits that I get while I’m “exercising”. 

STRESS REDUCTION

Last fall, I got a call from my daughter, Emma, while I was at work. She had just been in an accident. Other than mild whiplash, which she felt later, she wasn’t hurt. But, she was scared. She didn’t know what to do and she called me.

There were several phone calls in between talking with the police officer and other driver, who also wasn’t hurt. I was grateful she was OK, but it still was stressful for me too. Especially since I was at work doing my part of our morning radio show. I kept leaving the studio to talk with Emma and didn’t even realize what I was doing until a co-worker mentioned it.

I was walking loops around the conference room and reception area. Round and round I went.

Walking is how I deal with stress. It was a game changer when Ava was diagnosed with breast cancer the year before. Every time I went for a walk with her or by myself I could feel calm replacing the stress.

MORE BRAIN POWER

I was a runner for five years. Did a bunch of races. Got a bunch of medals. The races were fun, the training not as much. I’ll never forget the moment I decided to transition from running to walking.

I was consistently running three miles most days. I was not training for a race because I didn’t want to start running more. I was in the habit of running three miles and then doing a one mile walk. I really loved that walk at the end.

One afternoon I had arrived at the park for my run and was just getting ready to start when it occurred to me that I was doing the run so I could enjoy that at the end. I decided to skip the run and just supersize the walk.

You see, every time I ran, my brain was focused on what I was doing. For me, running required a lot of mental energy. But, the walk was just the opposite. My brain was free to focus on something else. I noticed that I did my best thinking while I was walking and I wanted more of that.

So, I stopped running and started walking for exercise.

It’s been seven years since I made that transition, and walking is STILL my best thinking time. This is when I process life. As I walk I find clarity and that helps me solve problems and plan.  

BOOSTS CREATIVITY

I used to get my best ideas in the shower. Now, I get them when I walk.

Every blog post I’ve written about walking involves a lot of walking. It starts with thinking of different topics I can write about. I usually take a walk and come up with several months of ideas.

Each week, I’ll take one of those topic ideas and write a blog post. But, I have a hard time sitting at my computer staring at a blank screen with a flashing cursor. So, I take a walk.

During this walk I’ll think through what I want to communicate in the article and what stories would best illustrate what I’m trying to say. I do this walk inside with a piece of paper sitting on a table. As ideas come to me I stop and write them down. After that paper is filled with ideas I’ll sit at the computer and start typing.

But, even then I’ll get up and walk if I get stuck and can’t figure out how to flesh out my rough notes. This article has required four of these little mini-walks so far. And, I’m sure there are a few more coming.

CREATES MARGIN

Some people are energized by lots of activity and a full calendar. I’m not one of them. I need space, or margin, in my schedule. I don’t do well with a full day at work followed by lots to do when I get home. I’m not pleasant to be around on those days. I also lose focus and pretty quickly my main objective becomes how to escape the busy.

My commitment to reaching 20,000 steps every day requires at least a couple longer blocks of time to walk. These chunks of time automatically create margin for me. These walk breaks are rest stops for my soul when life gets overly busy.

It also helps me keep focus on what’s in front of me because I know I’ll have time to recharge when I walk. I’ve considered lowering my daily Fitbit goal, but every time I do I remember how important the margin is those 20,000 steps create. And, since I’m often using my walking time to de-stress, think, create, and plan it’s not “wasted” time.

EXPLORE

I may be the only person on the planet who does not like Chinese food. I’ve tried, but I just can’t find anything on the menu that I like. A few years ago, I was in San Francisco with my 18-year old son and another family. They wanted to get Chinese food for lunch and discovered a wonderfully authentic Chinese restaurant in the heart of the city.

I went in with them determined to find something I might like. I couldn’t. So, I asked my son, and the others, if they minded me leaving so they could enjoy food they love while I found something else. We’d reconnect in an hour. They graciously agreed.

A couple blocks away I got a burger, which didn’t take long to eat. I used the rest of my hour to walk around downtown San Francisco. It was my first time in this beautiful city and it was great seeing some of it’s iconic buildings up close.

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It was a perfect day to explore San Francisco

This is one of my favorite benefits of walking. I love exploring cities by walking. I’ve spent many hours walking in Seattle, Atlanta, San Diego, Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, Rome, Milan, Florence, Sao Paulo, and others.

Since I live near Baltimore and Washington I feel like I know these cities better than most and still enjoy spending a few hours trying to find things I’ve never noticed before.

I have friends who enjoy the opposite. They love to explore less inhabited places like national parks, nearby hiking trails, and wilderness areas. Walking is a great way to discover and explore those things you’re most interested in.

LEARN

I love how local and live radio connects with the community during times of crisis. I’ve been in local radio most of my adult life. Currently, I’m part of the morning show on 95.1 SHINE-FM in Baltimore. We provide needed information. At the same time we also provide companionship. There’s an intimacy between those on the radio and those listening that’s hard to match with other media.

As much as I love radio, it can’t do everything I want or need. Radio is a BROADcast medium. The things we talk about must have a broad appeal. Podcasts are just the opposite. The best podcasts have a very NARROW appeal.

Before I sat down to write this article I took a long walk and listened to a couple podcasts. The first was about Apollo 13. That’s the ill-fated mission that had an explosion aboard the spacecraft on the way to the moon. This podcast is a six-part behind the scenes look at how Mission Control got the astronauts back to earth alive. 

The second podcast is part of a series on all the presidents. This morning, I listened to the episode on Richard Nixon. Most of it was about Watergate and President Nixon’s resignation.

Both of these topics may bore you to sleep. But, the topics you would find interesting might not be for me. This is the beauty of podcasts. There’s something for just about every interest. I love using some of my walking time listening to podcasts and learning new things.

DAILY WIN

Life is hard. Especially right now. My Fitbit goal gives me the opportunity for a win every day. Some days reaching my goal is not hard at all. When the weather is nice and I’m in Washington DC exploring a city I love, I hit 20,000 steps before lunch time.

But, on days when the weather sucks and my motivation is low, simply reaching my goal before I climb into bed at night feels like a HUGE win. Most days fall somewhere between those two extremes, but the Fitbit goal gives me the opportunity to finish EVERY DAY with at least one win.

And, because each day is unique, it takes intentionality to figure out how to reach my Fitbit goal. Every day I reach the goal is another link I add to a growing chain of daily wins. That chain is getting pretty long which becomes another motivator on days when I don’t feel like it.

I don’t want to break that chain.

That chain also represents hundreds of days when I figured out how to do a hard thing. That has a profound impact when I’m facing other hard things.

ENJOY ALL THE BENEFITS OF WALKING

We are in a challenging season where opportunities are restricted. But, you can still walk. And, if you walk with a little bit of intensity it is real exercise. Those walks can also be so much more. These are the OTHER benefits of walking. 

If you’re rediscovering the joy of walking you can turn this into a new fitness habit that lasts beyond this hard season. It also might change your life in other ways as well.

If you want to go a little deeper there are three things you can do today.

First, take The 30 Day Fitness Challenge . It will help you build a fitness habit which creates fitness momentum, and eventually leads to fitness transformation.

This free guide will walk you through how to get started. It’s very easy.

Second, if you don’t have a Fitbit I recommend the Fitbit Inspire HR. This is the Fitbit I use to track my 20,000 steps a day. The Inspire HR also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.

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(By the way…if you use the links in this article to make a purchase this blog will receive a small commission. It won’t add anything to what you pay, but letting you know is the right thing to do)

Lastly, this blog is designed to help you embrace walking as a fitness activity. Walking is sustainable, flexible, effective, and fun. Every week I post new articles with stories and helpful suggestions to Win at Fitness.

If you click FOLLOW (below on your phone…to the right and above on your computer) you’ll receive an email with a link to each new blog post.

 

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