I was a having a conversation a few days ago with someone, and I started describing how tired I felt in the afternoon. Living in such a cold climate it’s near impossible to get out sometimes, and the struggle is even more real when we have limited sun after 1PM. The person responded by saying I didn’t get any exercise or workout so the fatigue was from being out of shape. I immediately felt guilty and ashamed that I wasn’t in the gym more. I started scheduling sessions in my head, and reminding myself of Zumba classes in the area. The person was right - I don’t workout.
After a few minutes of guilt, I realized I was missing something. The truth is I don’t workout but I do walk almost every single day. Society doesn’t think of walking as a traditional workout yet research shows it’s one of the best things that you can do for your body.
We hear it all the time “no pain no gain” but reckless workouts can lead to injury and even burnout. People write off walking because it doesn’t seem intense enough but yet it has tons of research proven benefits.
Even Hippocrates said, “Walking is a man’s best medicine” which is semi true. Daily walking can lower your risk of dozens of health conditions, and was even shown to reduce the overall death rate by 20%. Not only does walking have extensive physical benefits but mental ones as well.
Walking in a natural environment has been linked to less blood flow in certain areas of the brain which results in a “quieter” more peaceful mental state. Walking can cut down your stress, help you relax, be more creative, and even boost productivity. As someone that primarily works from home, getting outdoors is critical and can help alleviate anxiety.
Another concept of walking is Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” which focuses on walking in nature to decrease stress and cleanse your energy. Forest bathing has been increasingly popular and is often connected with the desire to unplug from technology. The benefits blend walking with natural essential oils found from trees and nature.
How do you incorporate walking into your day to day routine?
- If you are someone that works out daily consider swapping a more intense workout for a walk on a local trail.
- Take your dog for a walk or borrow someone else’s - dog owners are almost 35% more likely to walk than non-dog owners and they are more likely to stick with a fitness plan.
- Instead of drinks with friends, consider going on a small hike or walk on a trail (don’t forget your thermos of tea).
After that conversation, I felt defeated about what I thought was a lack of exercise in my daily routine. It’s always important to remember that you know your health better than anyone and while something may work for others it may not be the right fit for you. Society has made getting in shape feel a bit daunting, but “getting in shape” can mean a lot of things. I encourage you to find healthy habits, and always keep track of what works for you.
Will you take a forest bath? Let us know in the comments.