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The most underrated form of exercise.



Prior to March 2020, I never really considered walking and exercise in the same light. For most of my early fitness career, I associated physical activity with spending time in the gym training with weights. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic, which changed the way we live.

When I wasn’t able to exercise at the gym, I had to find alternatives to move my body.


Coincidentally, I also experienced low back stiffness after spending more and more time sitting at home. So, it wasn’t long before I finally programmed regular bouts of walking as a form of fitness.


Soon after my first few steps, I realised that walking was the missing component in my life. 


So, why is walking important?


“Walking is a man’s BEST medicine” – Hippocrates. 

The human body is designed for movement. When the body gets regular, daily movement it thrives! Walking is an activity that GIVES more than it TAKES from us, meaning, the benefits of walking (improved health) far outweigh the costs (time and effort).

 

Despite the known benefit of walking, a lot of the population continues to battle various health risks and conditions that are amplified by high levels of physical inactivity. Nearly 80% of all contemporary jobs are sedentary or involve only light lifting. Our technology-driven world does more to influence us to remain sedentary rather than being more active.

 

Is it a coincidence that we also hear people have low back pain, struggle to focus on tasks and feel stressed frequently? Somewhere in the midst of all this “improvement” with technology, the importance of taking care of our own health has gotten lost in translation. Our daily routines feature less time doing quality movement than ever before.

 

But it doesn’t have to be this way.


Speaking from my own experience, I can tell you that walking has positively influenced my physical fitness, mental health, and social life. Walking isn’t just something I now believe in, it’s something I encourage each of our members to do as well. 


Walking benefits you physically, mentally and socially. 


Physical 

Regular walking can reduce your “aches and pains”. Your ankles, knees, hips and low back will feel more mobile and fluid. This can also boost your recovery from workouts by reducing the time you feel sore from the strain you’ve put on your body.


When you walk, your blood circulation improves and you’re able to flush out more toxins. Walking helps with your heart health, maintains healthy levels of cholesterol, and reduces risk of dementia. Efficient blood flow helps a LOT with the work you do in the gym. 


Mental

Walking outdoors can restore your creativity. In fact, Steve Jobs (the genius behind Apple) famously took all his meetings while walking and he encouraged his employees to move often. He noticed that walking not only increased productivity, but promoted greater creative ideas and improved team cohesion.


Building a habit around walking allows you to break up time spent focusing on a screen. Shifting from a singular, laser-like focus (like you do when viewing screens) to a more multifaceted, broader view (like you do when in nature), helps not only your eyes, but your overall mind. Concentrating is usually a stressor, while relaxing and taking in a view on a walk is a peaceful, passive process for our brains.


Social

Walking is a physical activity that can bring people together. I like being able to “stack” social connection time with my walking time because it makes me feel like I’m able to do many things at once—and it allows me to influence others with movement too.


Though I do try to avoid using my phone when on walks, sometimes the best time to return a phone call or catch-up with a friend is while walking. I like to throw in headphones and talk without having my phone in my hand while getting my steps in. 


The mechanics of walking.

There is an optimal way to walk that promotes proper and pain-free posture. Here are some key things you should keep in mind, as outlined by Dr. Stuart McGill (one of the world’s renowned back pain specialists):


  1. Walk with an UPRIGHT posture by stacking your shoulders, torso and hips.

  2. Your hips are in a neutral tilt: think of your belt buckle being pulled up towards your chin. 

  3. Your arms should be in a natural swing from the shoulders. This helps create rhythm and makes walking feel more like a total body movement. 


Strength training and walking go hand-in-hand. 

Strength training allows you to build key muscle groups that improve your walking mechanics, such as through exercises like lunging, squats, pulling exercises, and anything that challenges core-stabilization. Strengthening these muscles supports your skeletal structure, tendons, and ligaments, which helps boost your quality of movement. Conversely, walking is a very low-impact, high-reward action that increases your capacity to train.


Walking helps you recover between workouts without further fatiguing your body or increasing risk of injury. This is why we recommend adding walks to your fitness routine as it’s a key component in your strength training journey!


Prescription for a good walking routine.

It depends on your current fitness level, but it is generally suggested that you walk at least 15 minutes daily. Start where you can, and look to add 5 minutes to your walking time every other week. This means anywhere between 2-3 total hours of walking in a week minimum - once you build up to that.


“We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down.” -Robert Sweetgall.

I truly believe that walking is the easiest way to meditate and manage our stress levels. Amongst all the other benefits I listed in this article, I want to echo how important it is to build a routine around consistent daily movement. If we don’t make the conscious decision to move our bodies, it’s very likely that we can succumb to the pressures of living sedentary lives. 


As someone that didn’t really prioritise walking before, I can say from experience, it is something “small” that can lead to MASSIVE wins in every area of your life.

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