The benefits from this simple activity are endless
Lately, I’m all about walking — and for good reason.
My partner and I are setting off on a 260+km “walk” on the Camino de Santiago through Portugal and Spain in about a month — so preparing ourselves for long days of hiking is definitely a strong motivation to get moving more.
But it’s not the only reason I’ve come to love walking over the last couple of years. Walking almost daily has helped me realize the multitude of other benefits that come with this simple form of exercise. For my partner and I, daily walking has become part of our routine — a part of our lifestyle.
It’s also kept me sane, especially throughout the Covid-19 pandemic when recurring lockdowns resulted in many of us being housebound for weeks on end. Walking was a way to get out of the house, to experience the world, to see and appreciate the beauty of nature. It was something to look forward to each evening after another day spent indoors finally passed.
Although there are honestly endless benefits when it comes to taking a walk, the four below are some of my absolute favorites.
It doesn’t require any special clothing, equipment, or skill
In other words, it’s cheap. Who doesn’t love saving some money?
Walking is probably one of the most inexpensive and easy forms of physical activity out there, which makes it accessible to almost everyone.
Unlike many sports, you don’t need to go searching for the proper equipment before you can even get started. All you need to do is step outside and choose a direction.
Having just spent more than I would have liked on durable, quality gear for my upcoming trip (backpack, hiking boots, quick-dry items, sleeping bag, etc.), I know that the right equipment can sometimes cost an arm and a leg.
But when it comes to walking, as long as you have a comfortable pair of shoes, you’re good to go — and in my books, that’s a win!
It can never be closed down or taken away
For many people who prioritize their physical health, the closure of gyms and fitness studios during the pandemic was a real challenge. All of a sudden, their normal fitness routines weren’t possible, and no one knew when they would reopen, either.
That’s when I realized one of the main benefits of my walking routine: it didn’t have any restrictions. Nobody else could dictate when or where I could exercise.
I was fortunate in that my daily exercise routine really didn’t change at all, despite the world slowing down and most businesses shutting their doors (at least in the physical sense).
Even when we were in the thick of the lockdowns, I could still go out to stretch my legs and get some fresh air at any time, and this freedom was a saving grace when everything else around me seemed unstable and uncertain.
Sometimes, Aaron and I will walk late at night when our neighborhood is dark and everything’s calm and quiet. Anything is possible when you are setting your own schedule and when your exercise routine isn’t dependent on a place or on rules that are out of your control.
It can greatly improve your relationships with the people that matter most
I feel so strongly that daily walks with your partner can bring you closer together that I wrote an article about the ways it’s improved my relationship.
I’m somebody who values distraction-free quality time with my loved ones, and going on a walk provides the perfect opportunity to devote uninterrupted time and attention to another person.
When Aaron and I walk, we fill each other in about our days, plan for and talk about the future, ask each other questions, and generally just use the time to enjoy each other’s company and learn more about one another.
I’ve also been trying to schedule walks with my mom once a week. I’ll drive out to visit my parents and Mom and I will walk the gravel roads around their farm. We share what we’ve been up to, tell each other funny stories, get the scoop on the latest neighborhood news, laugh, and breathe in the clean country air.
It’s a great way for both of us to get some exercise while spending cherished time together.
It connects you to nature in a unique way
Before I started walking so often, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in nature. I used to look forward to camping because it was one of the only times when I knew I could just relax outdoors and spend most of the day outside.
But we’ve discovered many different nature trails and bicycle paths around the town we live in, giving us a variety of scenic options on our walks. Sometimes we walk along the river that winds through town. Other days we walk sections of the Trans Canada Trail or the Victoria Rail Trail, both of which are maintained, easy-walking options. Sometimes we want to avoid traffic and the busier streets of the downtown area, so we head for the forests and open fields a few blocks behind our house.
Regardless of where we go, it’s an opportunity to soak up the natural world around us. This past year, for what seems like the first time in my life, I felt like I actually watched the seasons change right before my eyes! Normally I’m too wrapped up in my own busyness to really appreciate the beauty that each season brings, but I felt like I saw them through new eyes this year.
Daily walking has taught me to slow down, take my time, and notice things. I’ve become much more aware of my surroundings, and I’ve started to find joy in watching what’s happening around me. I smile at people who walk by and say hello, wave at my neighbors if I see them while I’m out, and just generally experience life outside the confines of my own mind.
To me, it seems like walking is the underdog of the exercise world.
It may not be the most exciting way to get your daily activity in, but in my opinion, it has so many more benefits than any one sport. When you make going for a walk a daily priority, you may start to notice more than just your physical health improving.
You might also feel closer to your partner or have better relationships with your friends or parents, find that you’re more aware of your surroundings, more in tune with nature, and more connected to yourself than you’ve ever been. And to top it all off, over time, you may find yourself feeling less stressed and in a better mood more often!
If, like me, you used to think that walking didn’t really “count” as a valid form of exercise, I’d encourage you to reconsider.
My experience is that nothing could be further from the truth.
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