The Power of Walking
Walking is the most fundamental human movement there is. Unfortunately, it seems like modern society is doing whatever it can to get us to avoid walking and replace it with sitting. Since chairs are technically man-made, sitting on them is not a natural position for our bodies to be in. It tightens our hips, weakens our glutes, compresses our lumbar spine, and forces us into a forward posture. Walking (with good alignment), on the other hand, is a natural, full-body movement that moves air through our lungs and blood through our tissues. It requires several systems in the body to work in synchrony and feeds our body exactly what it needs. When we are walking, we are human.
As a collective society, however, we do not do this enough. A large percentage of Americans sit eight or more hours per day and then try to cram an hour of movement in a few times per week via exercise. Although exercise is wonderful and has a LOAD of heath benefits, it is simply not enough. Exercising a couple times per week or even daily will not replace walking or other general physical activity. And yes, exercise and physical activity are, in fact, different. “Exercise is a physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposeful. Physical activity includes any body movement that contracts your muscles to burn more calories than your body would normally do so just to exist at rest” (secoundcount.org).
This is not to say that physical activity should replace exercise either; walking or other physical activity should be done on top of regular exercise. It is here where many people run into barriers. Many people will say that they barely have enough time to fit in exercise during the week, let alone more walking on top of that. But this is where creativity and prioritization come into play. If you have a sedentary type job, take it upon yourself to make it less sedentary. Invest in a standing desk and walk around when you can. Every hour or so, take a break and go for a three-five minute walk. At lunch, save the last ten minutes for a light stroll (this will aid in digestion and also encourage you to only eat until you are about 80% full). After work or school, take the twenty minutes you may normally spend on social media to go for a walk with a loved one or on your own. Your body and mind will thank you!
The “I don’t have time” excuse typically means that it is not a priority. These simple tips should be very doable…but if they are not, it may be time to make some changes so that you can put yourself first. Yes, it is that important! Your own health should be put before most other things in life. After all, if you are not healthy and moving your body the way it is meant to move, other aspects of your life will suffer. So, this extra time spent moving and walking may save you a lot of time, money, and energy down the line.
When you walk, stand up tall, engage your core, push the ground away using your glutes (rather than falling forward and further tightening your hips), swing your arms loosely and naturally, and keep your shoulders, ribcage, and pelvis stacked.
It is up to us to actively fight against this anti-movement movement and get our steps in!
Stephanie Spoto, CSCS