Walking Through a Pandemic

 

“Walking is man’s best medicine.” – Hippocrates

 

All throughout this pandemic, the one phrase heard around the world from fitness and mental health professionals was: “Go for a walk!”  There is not one exercise or activity on this planet that is more accessible and more beneficial than simply lacing up your shoes, heading out the door and putting one foot in front of the other.

 

Walking is accessible to everyone of every age and every fitness level. One could say it is the “OG” of exercise – it requires no skill and has little to no risk of injury. Over the past few years, the science supporting daily walking has really made a case for including it in our health pursuits.

 

According to Harvard Health, the physical health benefits of walking, include, and are not limited to:

 

  • weight management
  • improved heart health or cardiac risk factors
  • ease of joint pain
  • supported immune health
  • regulating blood pressure
  • regulating blood glucose
  • strengthening bones
  • improved sleep

 

The other beneficial component of walking is the positive effect on mental health. Walking can help shift your mood, manage stress and even be mentally (and physically) restorative. Has anyone ever said they felt worse after a good walk? Never! Many people report finding walking even meditative – a chance to tune out, and quiet the brain.

 

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”  ― Friedrich Nietzsche

 

So how much should you walk? According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, to achieve health benefits, adults aged 18-64 years should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Since walking is low risk and low impact, you can aim for 20-30 minute walks every day, or opt for longer walks, like 45-60 minutes 3-4 times a week.

 

If you want more of a moderate aerobic component and challenge your cardiovascular system, then you simply walk faster, find a challenging path and aim to get your heart rate up for 20-30 minutes per day. Understand however, walking doesn’t have to be vigorous to still have the positive physical and mental benefits listed above. If you feel like strolling, great. If you feel like really pounding the pavement, awesome.

 

 

If you find yourself getting bored on your walks, consider a good play list, or audio book and try a new walking route.  Change it up to keep things interesting. There are many apps out there that help you find new walking trails. These apps are also great for seeking out nature walking trails; which is a bonus and can take away boredom from your usual route.

 

“Walk to be healthy, walk to be happy.” – Charles Dickens

 

 

By Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT*D, CFSC

SVPT Fitness & Athletics

September 5, 2020