Benefit of Walking – Making It Count

Walking for 20 minutes with no baggage is a great all-round exercise to do. Forget the number of steps per day. As I type, there is evidence evolving that indicates 10,000 steps is unrealistic and un-necessary daily. It may surprise you that as few as 2,500 may well be enough.

There are two ways of looking at walks from a mindset perspective.

  • Relaxation
  • Planning and sorting out your thoughts.

woman-walking-dog-in-countrysideWalking to relax and switch off

When you suffer with anxiety, depression and/or stress, then a walk can be just what the doctor ordered. Walking quietly in nature, observing how the natural world is behaving, can give you a surprising source of sense of calm and peace. No baggage, just you and nature. Take notice of your surroundings, the sights, the smells any changes along the route, the seasons, wildlife, bird song. Watch your own dog and others’ enjoy sniffing and playing. Making this a ritual of an evening can be a great way post dinner / supper to prepare yourself for sleep.

Walking to engage your brain and make plans

When working in a busy office, you can make a walk count at lunchtime if you have a colleague that you need to discuss something with or a plan to thrash out. You can use a walk to process thoughts either by consciously going over something and walking till it makes sense. You may come back to your desk with an actionable plan, or by allowing your mind to just wander whilst you have something in mind, return to your desk and brain storm. Business walks can be a way to get you moving in the middle of the day and pumping oxygen to your brain. This has two results, clearer thought processes and higher productivity whether you work in an office or from home. Skills that can be translated to personal projects too.

family-walking-in-the-woodsWalking to exercise or be active

Walking doesn’t need to push your limits depending on why you are doing it. If it is to get mobile and clear your head a stroll at an easy pace is fine. Should you want to include this as part of your exercise regime, then aim to walk a distance where you feel slightly tired and at a speed that slightly raises your pulse. You can take your pulse at intervals or be guided by how warm or puffed you feel. Don’t get out of breath, this might indicate either you are almost running or that there is something you need to get checked out by your GP.

Walking as cardio exercise

Walking to a point that raises your breathing and makes you warm is an indicator that your heart rate has risen. Swinging your arms at the same time as walking will put more effort on your body’s systems and exert an extra cardio load. If you want to put the most effort into a walk, swing your arms rather than just walking with your arms by your side.

Walking to tone muscles and increase strength

Gait is the term given to the method by which we propel ourselves through space. It describes the different actions we take as we put one foot in front of the other. Heel strike is the moment the heel of the forward foot hits the ground, and this is one of the greatest forces that our bodies are put through multiple times daily.

Heel strike is the beginning of the stance phase of gait and constitutes 60%. Our weight is then driven forward over the leading foot and the rear foot starts to rise from the ground. As our body weight moves forward gravity plays a part in helping to drive us forward. Our brain sends messages to the muscles in our legs and torso to support us in this movement by allowing contraction and relaxation of the muscles. First contraction of the anterior (front) muscles of our leg, and then as our weight transfers over the foot and ankle, these muscles relax and the posterior (back) muscles contract. It switches left to right as we move forward and we do this without too much effort and without too much thought.

nordic-walking-nature-trekking-sticks-nordic-polesHowever if you are walking for a strengthening exercise, mindfully contract the muscle groups as you go forward first consciously contracting the front leg muscles then those on the back of the leg. You will feel the potential power in those muscle increase with practice.  This is a form of power walking and is emphasized in Nordic Walking.

Nordic walking, if you are not familiar, involves walking with poles that help you to be mindful of utilising your muscle groups fully and your arms at the same time.

There are groups of Nordic walkers nationally which can be found via the British Nordic Walking Organisation here

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