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  • Writer's pictureSarah McDonald

Why walking is so important!

I have received a lot of questions about what kind of physical activity I have been doing during my weight loss journey. When people ask me what kind of exercise I have incorporated into my daily routine to have successfully lost over 130 pounds, I think they are anticipating that I've developed a rigorous workout regime in order to see results. The truth is that I haven't been "working out" in the traditional sense because that is not my jam. I don't like the environment of a gym (also going to a gym is not a safe option right now with the COVID pandemic) and I'm not very dedicated to following online workout videos from home. As I discussed in my New Year's resolution blog, this is one of the areas I want to focus on in 2021 to develop more muscle mass, build on the healthy habits I've established, and get stronger overall. That being said, daily walking has been a huge part of my life over the last few years and I have made it a priority to walk for an hour (almost) every day.


Walking in the fall is a particularly special time.

Physical Benefits of Walking


My friend Nicole recently shared this CBC article with me and it discusses the benefits of walking for 30 minutes a day. In this article, Chad Pawson explains that walking 8,000 steps a day is linked with a 51% chance of preventing death from any cause. Adding a simple 30-minute walk, or even two 15-minute walks, into your daily routine is proven to have positive effects on your health, both physically and mentally. According to an article on preventation.com, some of the biggest health benefits of walking regularly include:

  • increasing your metabolism

  • decreasing your risk of chronic disease

  • improving your digestion

  • improving your self-efficacy by committing to a routine and following through

  • improving your ability to think creatively and problem solve

  • alleviating joint pain

  • boosting your immunity your immunity

I have seen firsthand the positive effects that walking has had on my health. In December, I had a routine physical exam that included a check of all my blood work and, for the first time as an adult, my blood pressure and blood work was great. This was a result from a number of healthy lifestyle changes I have made, including changing my eating habits, but these healthy results can undoubtedly be attributed to my commitment to daily walks.


Walking + Your Mental Health


Not only does walking help you lose weight and improve your physical health, it also has a positive impact on your mental well-being. Walking can modify your nervous system and decrease feelings of anger and hostility. Personally, I struggle a lot with anxiety and spiraling thoughts, and walking is one of the best ways that I have found useful for managing anxious thoughts. This post by the Harvard Medical School talks about why exercise, in general, is helpful at treating anxiety because it:

  • helps redirect your thoughts

  • decreases muscle tension, which can contribute to feelings of anxiousness

  • increases the availability of important anti-anxiety neurochemicals, including serotonin, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and endocannabinoids

  • helps control the amygdala, which is our reacting system to real or imagined threats to our survival

  • builds resources that develop resilience against anxious feelings

Going for a walk while I am in the midst of anxious thoughts helps me to redirect my focus for a short period of time, which allows me to get a handle on whatever is making me feel anxious. The act of being outside, getting fresh air, and focusing on the rhythm of my steps are all contributors to helping me better manage my stress and anxiety. Prior to going for a walk, these anxious thoughts are all-consuming and overwhelming, but as soon as I direct my focus into going for a walk I'm able to better process these feelings in a manageable way and start to problem-solve solutions. By the time I get home, I'm always in a better state of mind and feel much more confident about my ability to handle difficult emotions.


Luckily I live near a number of wonderful trails and I am able to incorporate these into my walk. My regular daily walk is always the same route, as I have found that a routine that I can stick to makes this a habit that I can easily maintain because I don’t have to think about it. I try my best to incorporate my walk into my lunch hour, which has been a lot easier to do while working from home. It’s a great way to break up my day and clear my head so that I can be more productive in the afternoon. If you find walking boring, try to incorporate something enjoyable into your walk. Oftentimes I will listen to a podcast, audiobook, or call my mom for a daily chat. These are activities that are important to me but I'm not always able to find the time to fit them in, so my daily walk gives me a dedicated hour to enjoy doing something that is just for me and fills my emotional well-being needs.


Walking works for me because I genuinely enjoy it and that makes it an easy activity for me to do every single day. It may seem intimidating to start a new hobby or routine but remember to be kind to yourself because trying something new that is outside of your comfort zone is really freaking hard! Try to find an activity that you look forward to because that will make it much easier to incorporate it into your daily routine. It is much harder to develop and maintain habits if it's something that you're dreading because it becomes a chore. Going for a walk is also totally free! I don't need to worry about a hefty price tag that would come with a gym membership or subscription to an online workout streaming service. For you, it might not be walking that does the trick, but I really encourage you to give it a try and try going for a walk sometime this week. Notice how your body and mind are feeling before and after going for a walk. If walking isn't for you, find something that you look forward to doing each day to help improve both your physical and mental health.




I'm about to head out for today's walk and I plan on listening to my current audiobook Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill. Has this post inspired you to try daily walks? Let me know in the comments below if you try going for a walk this week or what other type of activity you incorporate into your routine to stay healthy both physically and mentally. If you grab a picture of some scenery while on your walk and tag me on Instagram @SarahLikesThings!



Cheers!

xox Sarah

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