In a time when our fitness options are limited, don’t discount the benefits of walking. Walking is free. Walking doesn’t require any fancy equipment or specialised knowledge. Walking is the most basic of motions, one of the first things we learn to do when we are young.
Walking can also safeguard us. It helps keep our bodies and minds in sound condition while giving us the time and space to slow down and look at the world around us.
As Antonia Malchik, author of A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom One Step at a Time, noted in a recent essay, “Walking helps us remember what it feels like to be fully alive.”
Walking has health benefits
Though you might not think of it as a workout, walking delivers a number of health benefits. Studies show regular walking decreases your risk for heart attack and stroke and protects against dementia. You don’t need to become a regular power walker to realise these benefits, either: They are evident if you walk as little as 5 ½ miles a week or around 1,800 steps per day), and don’t require you walk at a fast pace. Ambling along at 2 miles per hour will do you, and you don’t have to get all of your walking in at one time; a little bit here and there can add up to a good amount by the end of the day, and you’ll still see some positive impacts. Walking is also low-impact, which means your risk of injury is much lower.
The more regular your walking habit, the more you will benefit.
Walking is linked to improved mental health
As Malchik noted in an email to Lifehacker, many studies link moderate regular exercise—and walking in particular—with improved mental health, including lower incidence of anxiety and depression. This benefit is especially heightened when people go for walks in green spaces, whether that’s in a park, the woods or even just a small patch of nature located within a city.
“When I start feeling a depressive episode coming, if I force myself to go even for very short walks, it stops the depression from solidifying all through my brain and body,” Malchik says. “It’s not a cure, and it doesn’t make me all cheerful and happy, but it helps keep my equanimity stable.”
Walking promotes mindfulness
In addition to keeping you active, walking also offers you the simple opportunity to slow down and experience the world around you.
“We understand and interpret and even define the world through our experience as embodied creatures—that is, through our bodies and how they interact with the world all around us,” Malchik says. “Walking is a way to begin to discover this for yourself.”
When things get overwhelming, as they so often do nowadays, putting on a pair of comfortable shoes and going for a short walk—while maintaining proper physical distancing of course—can help bring a little calm to a chaotic world.