Walking. This simple habit may seem like one of the most basic exercise recommendations, yet health experts are telling us it’s also one of the most powerful. According to researchers at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, it can literally add years to your life. Based on their research, a 20 minute walk every day will induce anti-aging benefits that could add an extra 3 to 7 years.
Here are 5 simple ways to make walking more enjoyable, more productive and drive long term results.
No need to set a religious goal of hitting 10,000 steps per day. Just start walking every single day. How quickly you recover from exercise depends on a number of factors – fitness levels, exercise history, daily stress etc. It’s important to listen to your body and adjust your walk to suit your energy levels – gradually go a bit further or a bit faster, or if energy is low, treat your walk as a ‘work in’ to assist in recovery. Take it as slow as you want and focus on full diaphragmatic breaths. This will feel more like a moving mediation and is a really great way to cultivate energy and feel amazing!
Do your walk barefoot! Research indicates walking barefoot on grass or sand provides us with an adequate supply of electrons easily and naturally obtained by barefoot contact with the earth. These electrons have many well documented health benefits, including an antioxidant effect that can protect our body from inflammation. Not only do you feel good but it also gives you a chance to connect with nature – one thing many of us regularly miss out on.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to do 100 burpees every 10 steps! A great program to start with is doing 3 minutes of fast pace walking, aiming for an exertion level of about 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, followed by 3 minutes of slow paced walking. Aim for 5 sets of intervals totalling 30 minutes walking. A study from the Shinshu School of Medicine in Japan used these types of intervals in a study and found that the group that did this program significantly improved aerobic fitness, leg strength and blood pressure readings.
I’ll admit, I’m a massive dog lover. Walking my two pugs, Zahara and Ralphy, is one of the highlights of my day. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of daily life, so taking the time to switch off and appreciate the small things can be difficult. But it’s one thing we can learn from dogs. The joy they experience from being outside, or stopping to say hello to a friendly passer-by is a great reminder for us to be grateful for the small things in life. If you don’t have a dog, volunteer to walk your neighbour’s!
The great thing about starting your day with a walk is how much you can get done – and when we exercise in the morning, we are more likely to stay active and energetic throughout the day. Whether it’s brainstorming a new idea, taking a conference call or catching up with a friend, a daily walk is the ultimate multitasking activity. When it comes to walking, the most important step is that you do it regularly. Soon enough you will notice great results.