In Japan, Shinrin-yoku — translated as "forest bathing" — is the act of walking in nature to manage stress and relax. Aristotle made the outdoors his classroom and taught while he walked. Walking is probably one of the most underrated exercise options, and it costs nothing, boosts energy, improves cardiovascular health, with its benefits dating back to antiquity.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the number one killer in America. Research shows that walking as little as 30 minutes a day can reduce our risk by 40 percent. If walking is practiced with mindful eating and meditation, not only will the world march to a healthier beat but the cost associated with this disease, which the CDC estimates at more than $300 billion, will decrease.
I’ve talked the talk, now we have to walk the walk — let’s turn these statistics around. Here are five reasons and five tips to get you off your toosh.
5 Reasons To Start Walking
1. Walking is versatile.
Whether you’re staying local or traveling, exploring the neighborhood on foot is the easiest way to get moving. It clears the head, gets you outside, maintains your fitness and, because it's low impact, isn’t as likely to cause injury as other sports.
2. You'll get an endorphin and serotonin boost.
Scheduling a walking meeting with your boss or client not only gets you out of the neon-lit conference room, but commits you both to including exercise into your daily schedule. What’s more, the release of endorphins and serotonin brings on a natural high, making that pay raise or contract so much easier to negotiate.
3. Listen to a podcast.
Walking solo? If you don’t have time to listen to podcasts at your desk, download them. Just stay alert of your surroundings if you’re walking with headphones, and check your phone carrier’s download limit to avoid hidden costs.
4. You'll meet people.
If you’ve always wanted to participate in a marathon, buddy up with a friend and train for a walking marathon — it’s a great place to start. Or if you prefer something less intense, join a walking group, or attend a local walking meetup in your city. Who knows what you’ll discover or who you’ll meet...
5. Walking is good for you.
Don’t buy into the myth that walking isn't sweaty or strenuous enough to offer real benefits. Research shows that regular, brisk walking is associated with lower blood pressure, improved mood and better cholesterol ratios.
5 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your Walk
1. Make sure you have the right shoes.
Many people don't exercise because they have foot pain; this is when comfortable shoes can help.Make sure the shoes you choose allow the feet to breathe and offer arch support, and if necessary, consult a specialist to help you choose the right shoes.
2. Try interval training.
If you can’t walk for 30 consecutive minutes, divvy it up. Walk during your lunch break, take the stairs whenever possible, or park the car at the furthest end of the parking lot. It’s OK to split the time into three 10-minute bursts throughout the day.
3. Measure your steps.
Track your progress with a pedometer or other wearable device. Measuring progress gives that extra bit of motivation — whether it’s reaching your goal of 10,000 steps or clocking 30 minutes of walking daily. Furthermore, a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who used pedometers walked about one extra mile each day (or 2,000 more steps) compared to those who didn’t monitor their steps. Analysis also found that blood pressure and weight were lowered too.
4. Improve your gait.
When it comes to your stride, bad posture, tight hips, a slack tummy and weak glutes (mainly from too much desk sitting) don’t make for a walk in the park. Yoga is great for stretching and strengthening: To release tight hips, spend a few minutes in the half-pigeon pose on each hip; glutes love bridge pose; and boat pose brings much-needed awareness to your core.
5. Give your feet some TLC.
Massaging the feet is a good way to relieve stress and prevent future strain. Before heading to bed, knead your soles, arches and toes with some warm sesame oil … or get your significant other to do it for you.
Let’s start a movement — let’s get up, lace up, and hit the road!
Marina Chetner is a writer, hot yogi, and passionate world traveler. She writes about all things travel inspired on her eponymous blog, marinachetner.com. At the moment, her favourite asana is Floor Bow because it is such a challenge, she can’t get enough of green juice, and Tokyo is at the top of her travel ‘to do’ list. You can follow her on the aforementioned blogs, or via Twitter: @mchetner