“Walking is Man’s best medicine.”
– Hippocrates, the father of Medicine
I’m a believer. Here are some tips for starting a walking practice and why walking, particularly outside, is good for body, mind and spirit:
- Walk outside. Did you know we spend 80-90% of our time indoors? Enough is enough. Walking outside and spending time in nature feels good and promotes mind-body health. It beats going to the gym, where the air is stale, it’s noisy, smelly and, let’s be honest, swimming in bacteria. Being outside allows you to experience the natural rhythm of the day and the season while soaking up a healthy dose of Vitamin D. You’ll find that walking outside lifts your spirits and releases stress like nothing else can.
- Walk alone. Nothing against a social walk; they’re good for you too. But, developing a personal practice of walking alone will take you to an entirely different place. It is a fantastic form of mindfulness meditation and will calm your mind and give your brain a break from everyday overstimulation. It’s a chance to let go of thoughts and tune into the vibration of nature; a chance to shift your attention and notice the earth, even if where you walk is in the middle of a city. It’ll awaken your senses and fuel your energy. If your circumstances require bringing children along, by all means do! Sharing mindfulness and earth energy with your children would be a remarkable experience to have together and everyone would reap the benefits.
- Take a break from technology. Using headphones to listen to motivational thought leaders while walking can be a valuable tool for healing due to the bi-lateral brain stimulation walking generates. But it does change your focus. It’s a choice between processing words or hearing sounds. Choosing mindfulness will allow you to hear the birds and the wind as it rustles through the trees. You’ll hear and learn to appreciate quiet and experience its calming affects. If you must bring your phone along, turn the ringer to vibrate or off. This is your time to be alone. And by connecting with nature’s energy, you’ll find yourself more tuned in to your own mind and intuition.
- Commit to walking for at least 15 minutes. Generally speaking, this is how long it takes to overcome your mental objections and allow pleasure to rise to the surface. Maybe you’ll suddenly realize you have more time than you thought you did and keep on walking. If not, feel free to go home knowing you’ve accomplished your commitment to yourself for today.
- Walk outside regardless of the weather. It’s a whole different, amazing world outside. Seeing it through the window or dashing from a building to the car doesn’t count. Being in the middle of it all; the sights, the sounds, the smell, the energy; this is a day changer. And walking in the weather brings new surprises every time. Walking through the snow can generate extreme peacefulness. A walk in the rain can feel cleansing. And it’s impossible to walk in the wind without absorbing some of its power. A walk on a sunny day – well it just changes your disposition, no questions asked. Please note: it is, however, important to dress appropriately for the weather in order to get to the pleasure zone!
- Keep a calendar. If accountability helps with your commitment during the incubation stage, keeping a calendar may support your efforts. And remember the mantra – it’s about progress, not perfection. So focus on what you’ve done right, no matter how small it may seem. And let that be a building block for whatever your end result goal may be.
- The benefits of walking. It seems too simple to be true. And we’ve heard it so many times before that we tend to tune this message out. I’m the same way. I’ve learned a lot in researching for this topic and thinking deeply about my own experiences walking.
Here are some benefits not frequently mentioned that may inspire you as they did me. These are taken from the book “Walking Your Blues Away: How to Heal the Mind and Create Emotional Well-Being” written by Thom Hartmann who states that “walking may well be the best single exercise there is for human beings.”
- Walking exercises the heart and lungs
- Walking stimulates the pumping of the lymphatic system, an essential element of our immune system
- Walking improves digestion and decreases the risk of intestinal cancers
- Walking helps the kidneys stay clean and clear
- Walking helps maintain joint health
- Walking helps reduce feelings of depression, anxiety and sadness, even in parts of the world that have long dark winters
- Walking also generates positive emotional healing due to bi-lateral brain stimulation. This no-cost healing modality is discussed in depth in this book.
So, let’s lace up and head outside for a walk in the weather (rain for me today) and see where our shoes take us. Commit to starting and do that every day you possibly can. Define length of time this trial run will last. Might be 3x weekly for two weeks or every day for a month; whatever you are willing to commit to. Starting is the hardest part. The only person you will fail is yourself, the one who counts the most. Let’s do it!