I plead guilty. I am an obsessive walker. But most people aren’t. And for those individuals one of the greatest challenges is to convince them that walking is a good idea, and not just for someone else.
Walking for health benefits tends to be an easy sell. Especially when physicians are putting patients on a walking regimen for a wide range of health reasons including weight loss and cardiac health. When too much sitting is viewed as the new smoking, we obviously need to get up out of that lounge chair and into the fresh air.
But there are other reasons to walk in addition to that little matter of living a longer and better life. Here are 10 reasons that may surprise you:
Walk to Arrive: The most basic reason to walk is to get to your destination (that is, of course, if you have one). The choice of walking to get somewhere is often simply a preference. It is easy to forget that for others walking is a necessity – such as when someone needs to walk to a store for their groceries because they have no other way to get there. For many, walking is simply their transportation.
Walk for Bella: One of the most popular reasons people walk is totally selfless. Dog trainers and vets will tell you, if you want your dog to think you are god, get him or her out for a daily walk. Walking your dog is good for both of you. So why “Bella”? Believe it or not, that is the single most popular name for female dogs. Our little darling is named Miss Carmen, after my wife’s favorite opera.
Walk for Calmness: Is there stress in your life? If there isn’t, then you can just stop reading now. You certainly don’t need my advice. But if you do occasionally experience stress as I do, you will find that leisurely outdoor walking will almost certainly add to your calm and relaxation. My favorite place to walk for this effect? Since I don’t live near an ocean, almost any neighborhood park will do.
Walk for Community: Community is a funny thing. Is that area park, or a sidewalk that goes through your neighborhood, the new place to meet new friends? Since the front porch as a place to visit is a thing of the past, what do we replace it with? In many of the more walkable communities, the areas where we choose to walk is the new front porch.
Walk for Energy: Yes, I know. Much of the country this summer has been extraordinarily hot. But even with summer heat and humidity, when I walk I seem to gain more energy. Why? The answer has to do in part with body chemistry and elevating the heart rate. However, there seems to be even more to it. But I’ll save further discussions on the psychology of walking for a later article.
Walk with Family: Similar to community, many of us are concerned about our families becoming increasingly disconnected. As parents, we compete with video games and social media. But to be fair, our kids also compete for our attention. A walking club doesn’t need to be a neighborhood organization. Want better conversations with your children or spouse? Try walking with them.
Walk for Mindfulness: Whether I want to escape stress and lose myself, or whether I want to focus on my breathing, there is no better way to focus one’s awareness on the present moment than walking. It is amazing the effect that an occasional walk can have on your entire day. Which is why mindful walking practice is becoming the new meditation. Get out of your office, and get into your soul.
Walk with Nature: This is perhaps the second most enjoyable part of walking for me. Do you want to get to know Mother Nature better? Visit some local outdoor trails and parks to walk. I will almost guarantee you that you will enjoy that experience more than the treadmill at the health club. (And as a bonus it’s cheaper. All you need is a pair of shoes and a place to walk.)
Walk for Productivity: “Net-Walking” or “Walking Meetings” are becoming one of the new trends. But walking meetings aren’t really new. Socrates was known for walking with his students as he taught them in outdoor classrooms. In this too, what goes around comes around. Walking meetings are increasingly popular, and it is because they work.
Walking for the Rose: And I left this one for last because it is my favorite. This one first hit me when I went for my first walk at Huron Park in downtown Kansas City, Kansas where I live. I had lived in this city for more than 25 years. I had driven to the health department downtown for a great many community meetings, and it is right across the street from Huron Park. But, I was busy driving . . . and I didn’t even know that a park was there. And I certainly didn’t know that the park has a beautiful rose garden. Not until I joined a walking club at Huron Park.
That’s the trouble with driving everywhere, and even with cycling. You have to pay attention to the road, to the other cars, to where you need to turn, to finding a parking spot, and so on. You are so busy trying to get somewhere, that you never take the opportunity to look and see everything around you. Which may be a kind of a statement on our life condition.
So when I say “walk for life”, I don’t mean only a longer life. I mean a better life. A life full of developing friendships, and more communion with nature, and less stress . . .
. . . and more roses.
Special note from the author: Now, be watching for more on this topic. I intentionally did not talk about the extensive health benefits for walking because I wanted to give all of you the opportunity to focus elsewhere. However, this article marks the start of a more comprehensive series of posts on the considerable physical, emotional and lifestyle benefits of walking, biking, and hiking.