Monday, February 4, 2013

6 reasons we should all walk more!

Walking is such a simple, basic human ability, yet I think it is more powerful than most of us imagine and we don't do it nearly enough in our hurried, mechanized lives. Now that I'm in a small town where walking anywhere in town is an easy prospect, I have begun to embrace it. I walk to the in-laws' house, to the grocery store, the post office, down the creek beds and old train trails with Brady, to and from Brady's after-school facility, to the park, everywhere.

Brady seems to accept it now. There were times he used to ask if we could drive, but I say, no way, there's no reason to drive. His other option, though, bike riding, is a glorious idea and sometimes we do that. 

Here are the things I think walking does for us as humans and why we should do it more in our lives, every little bit that we can.

1) Health. Of course we're always hearing and reading how walking benefits our health, but it's true! When I'm walking, I can feel the muscles in my legs working as they were meant to. I can literally feel them getting stronger. I feel my heart beat strong as well and I'm flooded with warmth and energy. It's invigorating! For that reason alone, it is worth doing. And every little bit - 15, 10, 5 minutes - adds up. It also helps your bones as a weight-bearing activity. It helps your blood vessels by clearing them out. It helps your lungs by strengthening them as your breathing increases. It helps your muscles and joints stay limber. And it doesn't require anything. No money. No gear. No gas. Nothing. Just you and your motivation.

2) Simplicity. Walking simplifies your life. It removes you from dependence on mechanics. No car, no computer, just the simple functioning of your own body. You just get up and go. It's empowering to go somewhere under your own power, in my opinion.

3) Emotional well-being. Exercise in any form also releases endorphins, a feel-good chemical in our brains. Beyond that, being outside - in any weather as long as it is not dangerous and you are properly dressed - reconnects you with nature, fresh air and sunshine, wildlife even. These go a long way toward improving your mood.

4) Community. When you are walking, it opens opportunities to connect with neighbors and friends, people who live and work nearby. Being connected is also crucial to one's emotional and physical well-being.

5) Teaching.  Brady made my whole week one day when I had just pulled in to town and had to drive to pick him up. Normally, if there's time, I come home first and walk up to get him. It was 28 degrees out. When he saw the car he pouted. "Awwww, I thought you would have walked up! I wanted to walk home!" So, he gets it. At the beginning of the winter, he lamented the cold. Now he'd rather walk home in 28-degree weather and tromp through the snow, because it's fun, because it makes him feel good. The outdoors are accessible to him despite the weather. That made me feel fantastic.

6) Learning. Some of the best conversations I have with Brady are on our walks home. He tells me about his day, people he likes and doesn't like, what he learns at school, problems he's having, things he has done well. It gives him an opportunity to share and me the opportunity to talk through problems with him and offer potential solutions, some of which he has successfully used. We are unhurried and have each other's undivided attention. These are precious minutes of togetherness before we are assaulted by the distractions of home - dinner, chores, homework, TV. He even gets me tromping in the snow, making "avalanches." It's fun and we connect. And that is my favorite reason of all to choose walking.

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