I’ve had the idea for this post mulling in my brain for a while, and I wrote a draft of it that seems to have disappeared, so here’s a stab at a re-write.
First, I have to admit that in the past I was the kind of person that would have scoffed at an article with this title. I’m not offended if anybody else did just that when coming across my article. I wanted to write this article about walking to echo my Stop Working Out Like It’s Your Job post as well as to give some hope to those who have had trouble with their health, weight, or finding fitness. Without further adieu, here’s why you should consider walking as an important part of your fitness routine.
Walking: you’ve been doing this since you were a toddler. It’s easy*.
As adults, we spend about 50-70% of our time sitting. We sit in our cars on the way to work, we sit at our desks for 8 or 9 hours, and then we sit and watch TV at home to wind down after work. If we’re lucky, we spend an hour or two doing activity at the gym each day. What happens when we replace some of those hours of sitting with hours of activity is simply remarkable. Instead of sitting at your desk (or at a restaurant) for a lunch break, what if you took a walk? Even if it was a 20-minute walk that allowed for you to remain work-ready and non-sweaty, you’d see a benefit. What if you started replacing a lot of your sitting activities with walk breaks?
My walking experiment
Sometime this spring, I had a meltdown about not fitting into some of my favorite clothes. What partially fueled the meltdown was that I knew that I was too busy and stressed out from grad school and working full time to do anything about my weight. I knew that I couldn’t handle adding extra time at the gym, or the added stress of food prep on the weekends when I had only weekends to do my homework. Adding another layer of “must-dos” to my life was not an option.
I thought hard about what I could do with my limited time: I could eat more veggies and I could move more. I didn’t have a way to measure if I was moving more, so I purchased a FitBit, which is basically a fancy pedometer. I started walking home to take Barney out over my lunch hour instead of driving or bussing home. I found that I was hitting FitBit’s default 10,000-step goal too easily, so I gave myself a new goal of having 60 active minutes per day. FitBit measures active minutes as time spent briskly walking (or jogging, running, or other active movements). I was easily hitting my new goal. At that point, I had noticed that I was walking more than my FitBit friends (FitBit ranks your step count against friends), so instead of adding more time to my active minute goal, I kept the step competition in the back of my head. I started walking to and from work every day, walking to do errands on the weekends, and eventually, on days I didn’t want to go to the gym, I decided that walking or hiking was better than sitting on my butt, so I walked those times too. Some days I would reach 30,000 steps!
The weird thing about this whole walking experiment is that although I went into it thinking about weight loss, I quickly forgot about that goal. I remembered how much I love walking because I get to spend extra time outdoors, and because I love moving.
Results of my walking experiment
After a month or so of replacing some of my sit time with walking, I noticed a marked improvement in my running. Not only was I able to go farther and faster with less effort, I was no longer dealing with lingering running injuries that would nag me on occasion. I hit my 2014 goal of running 5 miles earlier than I had anticipated, and I honestly attribute that to the fact that not only was a running a couple miles every few days, I was walking about six miles a day just going to and from work.
Not only did I see a nice improvement in running, Mark noticed that I had trimmed down. I do not measure myself in any way (except for when I occasionally put on clothing that’s too big or too small!), so when Mark visited me in April after not seeing me for a month, he noticed how much I’d trimmed down and told me about it. He didn’t want to make a big deal about it because of my past history with my weight, but he also knew I hadn’t been obsessing about losing weight, so he made sure I knew that he noticed a change.
Side note: at the time Mark told me that he thought I’d trimmed down, he had lost around 20 pounds since the start of 2014 by simply walking, and was continuing to do so.
Walking makes you happy.
Give it a try. When you’re stressed at work, get up and walk around the office, or if you can, walk out the door and around the block once before returning to your desk. How do you feel? Better? Research shows that walking not only an easy way to get fit, it’s also a mood lifter. Walking can relieve stress and help boost seratonin levels.
Anecdotally, I can confirm walking’s mood-lifting powers. I used to walk over my lunch break at a highly stressful job. If I didn’t use my lunch break to move, my productivity would plummet, and I would become pretty hard to deal with for the rest of the afternoon. In addition, in times of depression or anxiety, I’ve turned to walking to lift my spirits while I process the things rolling through my brain.
What’s my point?
My point is that walking is easy and doable. Walking doesn’t cause injuries that running, cross fit, or other workout programs can cause. If you’re stuck in a fitness routine and hating it, maybe give it up for a while. Try something simpler, like some basic strength training, and replace some of your sit time throughout the day with walking. If you’re injured from your sport of choice (and can walk), walk! Walking is far better than sitting on your butt moping. If you’re chained to your desk all day, the easiest way to enjoy outdoors is to take a walk break. Finally, if you are sick and tired of not being able to lose weight, give walking a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy walking as well as by the results you see from simply walking.
Would you trade in your current fitness routine for something simpler, and more movement throughout the day? OR Would you walk to work if time was not an issue?
*I cannot help but feel a bit of sadness when writing this post. I just read an article about somebody who has Locked-In syndrome, so I apologize to anybody reading this who actually cannot physically walk.