25 Reasons Why You Should Take a Walk
I'm always a little amazed when people drive across town to the gym, hunt around for a place to park, change their clothes, sign up for a treadmill, and wait in line to use it, all just to take a nice 30 minute walk. Not that there's anything wrong with walking. Walking's great. But I have a theory that making such a big production of it makes it more work than fun, more exercise than pleasure. Plus, the best thing about walking is that it's so simple. Why complicate it? Here are 25 of the best reasons you should head out for a hike. (See also: 50+ Ways to Have Free Outdoor Fun)
1. It's a Great Way to Enjoy the Weather
I live in Northern Canada, where summers are short and oh so sweet. I just can't wait to get outside, and while I haven't figured out how to be able to spend all day on a blanket at the park, walking somewhere gives me a great excuse to savor a few sweet moments of sunshine. I have nothing against the other seasons. I love rainy spring walks, and crisp fall walks. I even love bundling up for an icy winter walk, especially late at night. Every season (and day, for that matter) has its moments. Walking gives you a chance to soak them up.
2. It's Free
Walking is as close to free as it gets. You don't need fancy shoes, or clothes, or equipment. If you head straight out your front door, a walk will only cost you some time and a little rubber off the bottom of your shoes.
3. It's Good for Your Blood Sugar
In terms of the health benefits, even a little walk goes a long way. Several studies over the past few years have found that as little as 15 minutes of walking after a meal will improve digestion and even out blood sugar levels.
4. And Your Back
A study by researchers at Tel Aviv University found that walking for 20-40 minutes at a moderate pace was as effective at reducing chronic back pain as the sorts of strengthening exercises that are often prescribed by physical therapists.
5. And Your Brain
A brief walk can melt mental fatigue, improve memory, and even help stave off the progress of Alzheimer's disease. We often spend much of the day thinking and worrying. Taking a walk is a way to leave it all behind.
6. And Your Creativity
English wordsmith William Wordsworth is said to have spent much of his life on foot, walking. Henry David Thoreau often walked up to 20 miles at a time before he put pen to paper (he even wrote a whole essay about it). Virginia Woolf was a regular walker. So were Robert Louis Stevenson and James Joyce. In fact, there's a very long list of writers who considered walking part of their craft. If you're a creative type, the walking path might just lead to enlightenment.
7. And Your Weight
A major meta-analysis conducted by the researchers at the University of Michigan and published in "The Annals of Family Medicine" in 2008 compiled the results of nine different studies to conclude that pedometer-based walking programs resulted in weight loss. The longer participants kept a regular walking schedule going, the more weight they were likely to lose. It's easy to assume that being "fit" has to involve super-intense "boot camp" classes or marathon training, but the reality is that high intensity isn't for everyone, and it definitely isn't for all the time.
8. And Your Heart
Walking's good for your heart, too. In fact, the American Heart Association calls it the simplest lifestyle change you can make for heart health. It positively impacts blood pressure, triglycerides, and overall heart fitness. I'd venture to guess that its ability to reduce stress also has heart-healthy benefits.
9. And Your Bones
A 1994 study by researchers at Tufts University found that women with a high risk for osteoporosis who walked at least 7.5 miles per week had higher bone density — not just in their legs, but in their whole bodies — than women who walked less than a mile per week. Your bones respond to weight-bearing activity. Walking seems almost too easy, but it fits the bill.
10. Not to Mention Your Relationships
I read somewhere that if you're going to argue with a man, it's best to do it walking. (Apparently, they see being looked in the eye as a challenge.) I can't say for sure if that's true, but I did find some evidence that couples who walk together tend to have better relationships. When you walk with someone, you're both going in the same direction, looking ahead, and moving in sync. Those are principles that help move a relationship forward, too.
11. And Your Dog (Kids, Significant Other)
Forget toys and treats; dogs are happiest when they're moving. If you don't have a dog, remember that kids and spouses need walking, too.
12. And the Environment
Every trip (however short) you take on foot is one you aren't taking in your car. That's good for you, and it's good for the environment.
13. You Get to Explore
When you're on foot, you notice all kinds of things you'd never notice in a car. Use your walk as an opportunity to explore your neighborhood, admire the scenery, or just make fun of the stupid-looking addition your neighbors are building.
14. And You Get to Know Your Neighbors
Speaking of neighbors, walking is a great way to meet a few of them. If you do it regularly, you'll find yourself greeting the same people time and again, which is kind of nice.
15. And Find Cool New Businesses in Your Area
There's nothing I love more than stumbling across a new bookstore or coffee shop within walking distance (so you know where my loyalties lie). If I didn't walk, all my neighborhood's hidden gems would still be… hidden.
16. It's an Excuse to Get Some Ice Cream or Coffee
Walking is a great excuse to pick up a cup of coffee or ice cream cone to enjoy along the way. At least you're burning some of those calories, right?
17. And to Get New Shoes
My dress shoes (read: shoes that are too uncomfortable to walk more than a few steps in) never wear out, which means they pile up in the closet as a reminder that I shouldn't buy anymore. Wearing out my walking shoes means I get to buy a new pair once in a while.
18. And Some Vitamin D
You've probably heard all about the importance of vitamin D to overall health. The best source? A few minutes of sunlight on your face and hands. A short afternoon walk should do the trick.
19. You Can Listen to Music
A walk is a great excuse to listen — really listen — to a great album. You can even walk to the beat.
20. Or Just Talk
Walking seems to stimulate conversation. There are no clocks and no distractions. Don't come home until you've run out of things to say.
21. Or Spend Some Time Reflecting
We often think of meditation as something that happens when you're sitting still, but in reality, that's very hard to do. The washing machine will chime. The phone will ring. Your kids will find you. If you walk, your brain will be able to do its quiet wandering with less distraction.
22. You Can Work Really Hard
In terms of exercise, walking doesn't have to be a cakewalk. If you want to sweat, try walking uphill, or up stairs, or adding in some lunges. It can be as hard as you want it to be.
23. Or Just Take a Stroll
It can also be as easy as you want it to be. After all, sometimes the exercise we need is the restorative kind.
24. And You Can Do It Any Time
Sometimes I walk first thing in the morning. Sometimes I do it in the afternoon or before dinner. I also love walking late at night. And when I'm up late and can't sleep, I inevitably see some guy walking his dog at 3 a.m. (I guess I'm not the only insomniac in the neighborhood.) The point is that there's really no excuse not to walk because you can do it any time at all.
25. The Best Part? You Never Know Where It'll Take You
It's while I'm walking that I notice the frost on the grass, or a rabbit hiding behind a tree, or the moon peeking out from behind the clouds. It's when I'm walking that I get a great idea, or realize that the one I thought was great is actually pretty lame. I've explored the neighborhood where I live, and admired and fantasized about the ones I'd like to move to. I guess that's why walking is such a well-worn metaphor for life. You might not know where you're headed. All you've got to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Why do you like to walk?