Five Reasons to Start a Walking Program ….not Related to Physical Health

There are a host of reasons for all of us to be physically active each day: weight control, heart health, reducing the risks of developing chronic conditions like diabetes, etc.…negative reasons in many ways, as we make the choice for adopting such torture out of a fear of losing good health, having to manage medications and even….needles.

What does not surface on the list until much further down for many of us, but what is really more important than any of the above, are the mental benefits of being physically active. And the beauty is that it is as simple as taking a walk.

“A busy crosswalk in Tokyo” by Cory Schadt on Unsplash

This easy and natural way to exercise is first of all, one of the BlueZones Power9 characteristics of those people who live vibrantly and actively into their 100s.

Walking is what we all do naturally: a no-brainer activity. Adding some more steps each day is as simple as parking away from the front of a building or a store….taking the stairs….walking on the people mover at the airport.

In this day and age where all of us are pulled by work, family obligations, community obligations, we lose sight of doing something just for ourselves. Well, many of us don’t lose sight of it exactly, it is merely that these choices to do something “just for me” may involve Golden Arches, Voodoo Doughnuts, or the wine aisles at the neighborhood grocery store. The irony is that once that choice is made and consumed, we generally don’t feel any better (especially if we choose all three at the same time).

So the second reason to start a walking program is to give that “feel good” feeling to yourself — because you deserve it!

Indeed, studies completed (and on going) at Cal State Long Beach show there is a strong correlation between the number of steps we take each day and our positive feelings of self esteem, happiness, depression and overall mood. Read more about this interesting connection and other benefits of increasing those steps each day then commit to a walking routine.

Additionally, activities of movement, like walking, help develop self discipline, improve our perceived tolerance for pain, and relieves the tension associated with depression and anxiety.

“A barista pouring coffee into a mug that says ugh on it at Bar Nine” by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Our mental outlook is influenced by so many external situations, but equally powerful are the internal factors affecting our mood, happiness quotient, and self esteem. How many of us are habitually tired, or in medical terms chronically fatigued? We slog through our day, feeling like we are just going through the motions, our lead-like feet dragging one in front of the other to nothingness. This chronic fatigue, not otherwise caused by illness or disease, often induces a brain fog where we make mindless choices simply to get that problem or concern out of our head.

The good news is that, once again, it appears that adopting a walking routine can blow away the brain fog and combat chronic fatigue.

A National Institute of Mental Health panel, as well as the Institute for Aerobics Research, have concluded that walking on a consistent basis can improve mental alertness. A study of 400 out of shape men and women, followed over a 2–1/2 year period, who engaged in aerobic exercise (fast walking), actually improved not only their physical health, but their mental/emotional health. The evidence suggested adding walking to their daily routine increased their energy levels, improved circulation and oxygen to the brain.

Having trouble catching enough ZZZZZs each night? You are not alone. According to the American Sleep Association, 50–70 million Americans (adults) have a sleep disorder; 30% admit to insomnia; and 10% say the condition is chronic.

While many sleep issues can (and need to) be resolved with medical intervention, there are some many things we can do to foster better sleep hygiene and improve our ability to get restorative sleep.

A walking program is one step in the right direction.

A panel of seven medical experts on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness looked at some physical activities that best promoted sleep, and placed walking ahead of other activities like bowling, golf, tennis, and basketball. Taking a walk, they concluded, relaxes the body and clears the mind. Kicking it up a notch if you are really into this, jog, swim, bicycle, go skating or cross-country skiing.

Start a walking program. Live vibrantly longer than your family and friends. Do something positively good for yourself. Disperse the brain fog. Increase your mental energy to off-set chronic fatigue, relieve tension and develop self discipline.

Best of all, all these positive benefits of starting a walking program will inspire others to do the same.

Frankly, I would rather be the one to inspire 50–70 million Americans to find better sleep and by showing the benefits of walking, than host a ginormous slumber party of insomniacs, consuming fast food, doughnuts and alcohol.

Certified Health Coach and freelance writer, striving to do what really matters in life…one day at a time.

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