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Rediscover Walking

Undoubtedly negative emotions can impact our well-being  and the spread of COVID-19 has certainly triggered a great deal of  anxiety. But there is some good news. There is something we all can do to help ourselves and it doesn’t cost a cent and no training is required.  

If you are committed to maintaining social distancing, put on your mask, open the front door and place one foot in front of the other.  That’s it.  You’ve already started.  If you prefer to maintain isolation and are fortunate to possess a treadmill, remove all the items you may have stored on it, placed both feet firmly in position and begin – no mask required. 

Whether indoors or out, begin by reminding yourself this is not a race. Speed doesn’t really matter when walking. It’s all about the breath.

Finding, then setting your breathing pattern is an important. To optimize the benefits of your walk, your ultimate objective is to take medium-to-long strides without over-reaching, while maintaining a comfortable breathing pattern.  At the onset, paying attention to your breath patterns will go a long way to reach that objective. And by the way, drifting away in thought is natural when walking. So if you find yourself all wrapped up in your thoughts forgetting about your breath counts be mindful and just reconnect.

To find your breathing pattern move in a relaxed way,  at a pace that is pleasant for you. Direct your attention to your ideal walking speed. Your pace will begin to follow its own rhythm.  Take notice of how many steps you take during one inhalation and how many steps you take during one exhalation. Practice a couple of times and you’re well on your way. 

Once your breathing pattern is set, it quickly becomes second nature and that brings this simple activity to a whole new level. The change of scenery and the extra oxygen helps boost your brainpower. The constant movement matched to your unique breathing pattern sparks relaxation and often brings new perspectives to situations that may be of concern.  

One of the best ways to relax on your walk is to practice a gratitude walk. It will  transform your day. Unstructured, this walk is all about noticing something exciting/beautiful/beneficial or otherwise good on each block of your walk. Whether appreciating the neighbour’s well-tended garden, or how the majestic oak extends its roots up to 90 feet from their trunks or that fluffy baby squirrel with that cute little tail or just being grateful for comfortable sneakers, the sunshine, a fresh breeze and the free time you have to take a walk in the first place, you’ll quickly discover gratitude never gets old.

Walking, whether inside or out has been identified as an ideal way to maintain well-being. According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.”

Walking has a bigger impact on disease risk and other health conditions than just about any other remedy available. A number of studies show walking is as effective as drugs for decreasing depression. Walking for 2.5 hours a week—that’s just 21 minutes a day—can cut your risk of heart disease by 30%.

This free, do-anywhere, anytime, activity reduces the risk of diabetes and cancer, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and keeps you mentally sharp.

Walking is a qualitative and quantitative solution when prioritizing  health. Free and easy to fit into your daily routine, even a quick one-minute pays pays off.

A 2014 study from University of Utah found that for every minute of brisk walking that women did throughout the day, they lowered their risk of obesity by 5%.

Your mind will be clearer and tension will melt away as mood-elevating endorphin levels in your body increase.

If you’re still having a hard time getting excited about lacing up your sneakers consider walking while listening to music or a podcast. Walk for as long as you want whether for 10 minutes or 30 or more. No matter how long you walk, your body will thank you. Oh, and remember to wash your hands when you get home.