There are so many reasons to move and I have always been an advocate of both high and moderate intensities for the varied benefits they bring. Our bedrock of all movement however has to be walking. It is the most accessible and what our bodies are designed to do. Interestingly, from an evolution perspective, our ancestors were as equally comfortable with the faster stuff - naturally moving at higher intensities. As hunter gatherers they had far more reasons to move fast than we do today. You can't help but think that our modern day diet and lifestyle makes it all a bit more trickier to navigate.
There has undoubtedly been an even greater shift recently as our lifestyles have changed even more. WFH - is a thing! Which, prior to March 2020, was an an acronym no one would have recognised. Most significantly, working from home has meant less time commuting and even less cues to walk - even if it was a short walk to the train station, it was still a daily habit that many of us no longer have.
So why is walking so important?
It's a fundamental movement pattern that uses multiple muscles, joints and planes of movement - There's a lot more going on than you might imagine. From the strike of your foot to the floor, shift in your pelvis, swing of your arms and torque through your waist. Walking will do more for you than many a workout that's been touted as the best thing for anything, from your arse to your elbow.
Want to work your core? Walk!
Want to release back pain? Walk!
Want to improve your posture? Walk!
There is a plethora of research advocating walking for your health. Walking is a prescription for reducing back pain.You only have to look at the protocols in numerous National Health Guidelines to see "moderate movement such as walking" as one of your top line treatments. It has also been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes some cancers and more.
What's even more outstanding is the influence it can have over our mental health. Going slow and appreciating the environment you are in are all part of the benefits of walking. Even short bouts can make a difference. Couple this with getting out early into daylight, healthy doses of sun exposure and you are doing far more for your body and mind than just clocking up a few calories. In fact clocking up calories is probably the least of the benefits you will gain. But having worked on a walking programme for nearly two years now and being in constant contact with the women on the programme, they are all successfully able to manage their weight.
There is a saying that one health habit breeds more health habits and walking is a prime example of, when you get it into your life daily, i.e. it becomes a constant, lots of other things fall into place. This includes the higher intensity stuff - walking is your bedrock don't forget. Work on your walking and you'll progress your way through all other types of movement from running, sports to weight training. Movement however is not all about progressing - regressing is important too. If you are a big mover , you need to rest and take time to gently mobilise and recover from a big session - theres no more perfect a way to do that, than to walk.
There are some things you can do to make your walking work more for you. On your next walk be conscious of the following...
- Can you pick your feet up to strike from your heel?
- Can you power from your hips to feel a lift and spring propel you forwards?
- Do you walk tall - hips underneath your spine - eyes forward, feeling movement through your rib cage and a natural swing through your arms?
- Do you feel a push off through your big toe and a corresponding propulsion through your glutes before your leg swings forward?
It's hard to feel any of this when you are walking fast or running, but slow it down, connect, and you start to realise how beautiful the action of walking is.
But it's not just about the walking - it's the talking too!
Yesterday I went for a walk with my wonderful friend Lynn Rae. We walked and talked and I wish there was more research on this for I do believe the mental health benefits of this are outstanding.
Research has shown that meetings held on the move, as we walk & talk, can increase our creativity by 50%. Something to take back to the Boardroom & Occupational Health departments.
Since getting to learn, & love how best to communicate with my son who has NVLD (non verbal learning disability), I've realised how, not seeing some ones face as you talk can facilitate many more open conversations. In a world where digital communications are bombarding us to the point of confusion, there's something wonderfully simple, peaceful & honest about walk & talking.
Since March 2020 our world has been turned upside down. There's good & bad in this - I'm never one to think, what we had is always better. But the consequence of working from home has undoubtedly changed our movement patterns & it does concern me that many of us are just not getting out & about as we once did. It would be nice if we had more research on this, but one thing is for sure - there is nothing more enjoyable, soulful & mindful than walking with a friend, unloading all that's happened since you last saw them, discussing plans & supporting each other in your quest for a fulfilling life.
Whilst covid restricted our communication channels - it did allow us one thing - to meet in a park, walk and talk - I wonder how much more our health would have suffered if we hadn't had this opportunity? I also know people who suffered more because friends and family were just too far away for them to do this, or , being frail - simply meant it wasn't an option. This is something we all have to think seriously about - Walking and Talking should be something you can do until you die.
Another friend has recently set up a 'walk and talk' in my local park - it's part of an organisation called The Walk & Talk Movement . There are walk & talks popping up all over the place - I do wonder if this may just take over from Park Run - It's the bringing together, less of the like minded, and more of the diverse and divided. In todays current climate I cannot think of a better way to move and keep moving forward.
P.S. If you struggle with any of the walking points I've mentioned above - it's one of the things I focus on, particularly in my Pilates Classes - do come and join in. There's a free trial of all online classes or why not pop into a studio in Tooting or Balham.
Photo's are from a Walk on our last Retreat in Andalusia - If you'd like to find out more please click here . Apart from the Last photo - that's me with Lynn and Luna. Sadly Luna won't be on the next retreat but Lynn will be! Lynn is an amazing practitioner specialising in manual therapy for the face and jaw.