In case you haven’t heard, the Surgeon General announced this past Wednesday for a national call to action to start walking! Appropriately, we already had this post scheduled.
Forward by Steph 🙂
I can’t begin to tell you how great walking is for your health. Just a few weeks ago, I started a little walking “club” where I work, I and 2-3 other women meet up once a week and go for an hour long walk through the local parks, neighborhoods, etc. Do you know what I realized? In just one hour I can average anywhere from 6000-8000 steps.
That’s a LOT of freakin’ steps! Who else tries to get over 10k steps each day? Did you know that consistant walking for just one hour is an amazing, fat burning workout? I always knew walking was good for you but until I saw the steps and felt the energy I had after our walks, even I had underestimated the power of a great walk.
We all–no matter what stage of fitness or health we are in–should put walking at the forefront of our fitness. If you can’t get to the gym, go for a walk. If you are going to lift, warm up with a walk. Cool down with a walk. Even start your journey to fitness with walking. In my opinion, it’s the most underrated exercise that we can do. Which is exactly why we wrote about it in our most recent book, and why we’re writing about it now.
It’s time to up your walking game, folks.
Why You Should Walk More, by Erik Walker
“Mzungu, mzungu…” were the calls of small Kenyan faces hiding in fields of 10 foot high corn. “Mzungu, mzungu” followed by youthful laughter. A few brave children peer out from the corn, “mzungu, mzungu.” I reply with, “Mtoto, mtoto,” which produces tremendous amusement and draws out the hidden faces with bright white smiles even more.
“Mzungu, mzungu…” This was my daily walk in Kenya, a solid three miles, seemingly uphill both ways, in the equatorial sun. I loved this walk. I loved being a Mzungu to these children. Mzungu, a Swahili word for one who wanders, is somewhat of a slur for white people. But these mtoto (children) did not mean it as a pejorative. I was a mzungu. I wandered this road every day for a month and each day my head spun just as a tourist walks through the Louvre.
In America, I would curse having to walk three miles in the nearly 100 degree sun. But here, I climb an African dirt road in full enjoyment of the African school children’s slurs. It was during one of these walks that I began to reflect on my name—Walker. In Africa, a person’s name means something. It is given to them in reflection of something about him or her—something they are good at or something they enjoy. I believe this is why the village elders placed me to live with a family far away from my daily Swahili lessons and in the opposite direction of the school in which I was working. His name is Walker; he must like to walk. They were right. I do like to walk. It took me thirty years and some good Kenyan reasoning to put two-and-two together, but walking is awesome. Perhaps, I had an ancestor who also loved walking, back in a day when Western surnames also had a meaning?
We Were Evolved to Walk
The thing is, all of our ancestors liked to walk. We were evolved to walk. And it is to this reason that we all should be walking a whole hell of a lot more than we do today. I remember my Dad telling me once that Anthropologists could tell if an ancient society were hunters and gatherers or farmers based on the density of their bones. Hunter-gatherer societies had strong dense bones because they were nomadic and spent much of their lives walking; whereas, farming societies had more brittle bones because they were more sedentary.
Can you imagine what the future anthropologists will think of our bones? We sit in our cars on the way to work, sit in front of a computer at work, sit again on our way home, where we sit down for dinner, and finally we sit in front of the TV as we unwind from our stressful day of sitting.
Renowned physical therapist, Kelly Starrett, believes sitting is one of the least healthy positions we can put our body in. Yet in 2015 America, we sit, sit, and sit some more. The next time you sit in your car driving around a parking lot an extra 5 minutes looking for that super close parking spot so that you do not have to walk an extra 30 steps, think about what you are doing to your body. Walking is undoubtedly better for you than sitting. But I stand here (standing desk) and write this to you as if this is something novel, something we don’t already know.
Walking needs to be at the forefront of fitness. One of the keys to a healthy body is lifting weights to build muscle. And walking is the perfect accompaniment to a good muscle building resistance training program. Most cardio exercise can actually slow the muscle building process, whereas walking can actually aid the muscle building process. Walking even stimulates blood flow which helps the muscles to recover from the resistance training.
More Reasons to Walk: A University of Michigan study found that outdoor walking can lower depression and decrease your stress levels. And reducing stress is one of our keys to a total health makeover!
Walking Helps You Sleep
Walking will also help you sleep better. A study published in the journal Sleep showed that women who added 3.5 hours of walking to their week slept better than women who did not. Walking is also the perfect starting point for anyone new to fitness or apprehensive about starting a workout program. It’s easy to do, anyone can do it, and it can be done most anywhere!
Walking Won’t Hurt You
Walking is low impact so it has very little negative effect on the lower back, knees, and other problem areas associated with higher impact cardio. There have even been studies that have shown walking reduces fat at a higher rate than running and jogging! And if that is not enough to convince you to start walking more, the American Heart Association says that walking 30 minutes a day can:
- Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
- Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Improve blood lipid profile
- Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
- Enhance mental well being
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
- Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes
But I don’t have time to walk!!
One of the big cons of walking is it is time consuming. This is certainly true and in our busy lives it often will become an excuse for not walking. But there are ways to make your walking more productive.
First, walking is an awesome relationship builder. Walking increases our mood and if you walk with loved ones, your brain begins to associate the feel-good hormones caused by the walk with the person you are walking with. So if you are trying to get someone to fall for you—take him or her for a walk.
Second, the average American watches 33 hours of television a week. Find a gym that has its treadmills in front of a TV. Some gyms have individual televisions for each treadmill. You can watch your favorite show while burning fat! The benefits of walking certainly justify the 30-40 minutes of time it will take. Plus since your sleep will improve, you will be more rested and more productive throughout your day. So you may not even notice the extra 30 minutes in your busy productive life.
Still not convinced? Here are three more reasons:
- Multiple studies have shown that walking improves your immune functioning. People who walk more get sick less.
- According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, walking improves your memory. Other studies have shown walking can improve other brain functions as well, including lowering your risks for dementia.
- Finally, according to the National Walkers Health Study commissioned by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute—walking has a direct association with a decrease in mortality—even amongst people who do other forms of exercise.
What is Stopping You?
Walking is one of the easiest ways to improve your fitness, your health, and your life. We all know how to do it. So get started today. Below you will find an 8 week treadmill walking workout. This program is a 4-day-a-week workout and is designed for a beginner who might be starting his or her fitness routine with only walking.
- If possible, alternate the shoes you wear. This will save you from foot related problems caused by walking.
- Massage your feet before and after by rolling a golf ball under your feet.
- Find a treadmill with an attached television or listen to your favorite podcast or audio book while walking—the time will fly by and the distraction will make you forget you are working out.
This workout is designed to keep your heart rate low and therefore in a greater fat burning zone. Here is an 8 week four-day-a-week treadmill walking workout to get you started:
For more walking programs and even further information on walking, fitness, and overall better health; our Total Health and Fitness Makeover book and workbook will be re-releasing this November! Make sure you’ve subscribed to Strongfigure.com so that you don’t miss out on any important news!
Have you been following our conditioning workouts? Maybe you’re ready to step up your fitness? Try one (or all!) of these conditioning workouts this week! Don’t forget to pin them or save them so you don’t forget about them!
Strong Figure Weekly Conditioning Workouts