I’ve just returned from our regular weekend 5K walk. Okay, so it’s actually supposed to be 10K, but a few of us cut out half way through to join some of our other friends for coffee. I don’t want to miss out on the coffee part, so I exit at the 5K mark too – my story, and I’m totally sticking to it!
I originally had a different post planned for today (my apologies if I told you about that one, and you were expecting another topic). Since I have recently been on my ‘longevity and active aging rant,’ I thought that I would sneak in one more post on this theme.
Previously a somewhat undervalued activity, the benefits of regular walking are now exalted everywhere that we turn. From improving physical fitness, calming the mind, reducing stress (source) triggering anti-aging processes, repairing old DNA (source), lessening risks of breast cancer/colon cancer (source)/dementia (source) and helping to prevent premature death (source), walking is now hailed as a multi-tasking cure-all.
Experts suggest mixing up your walking routine to keep it fresh and challenging, as well as to ensure that you reap maximum benefits. For example, walking barefoot, sometimes called ‘grounding,’ helps you to absorb free electrons from the earth. These electrons are touted to assist with a wide assortment of health concerns including, poor sleep, arthritis, respiratory issues, chronic muscle pain, stress, hypertension, weak immune systems, and more (source). If going barefoot is not quite your thing (or if you have no soft sandy beaches or grassy knolls nearby), taking 100 steps backward is claimed to reap the same benefits as taking 1,000 steps forward (source). According to researchers, compared to regular walking, ‘retro walking’ increases cardiovascular endurance, burns more calories, improves balance, more fully promotes blood circulation, and prevents the development of a hunched-back (source). Have the walking coordination of a tarsier? Try ‘breath walking’! This technique (taking four sharp breaths in and four sharp breaths out while you walk) is argued to “prime your mind for learning and creativity while you exercise” (source). That strikes two (or even three) birds with one stone–you’ve gotta love that!
Excuse-buster alert: Almost everyone can take part in walking (or modified walking) activities and just a little bit can make a huge difference. Researchers have found that walking regularly for just 20 minutes per day, burns approximately 100 calories each time and contributes to the wide-ranging health benefits listed above (source). Some literary theorists have even closely compared walking and writing, stating, “writing is one way of making the world our own, and walking is another” (source).
According to Random Facts: “The average Australian takes 9, 695 steps per day (just a few short of the ideal 10,000), the average Japanese takes 7,168; the average Swiss: 9,650; and the average American just 5,117.” Supplementing these facts, “the average Canadian man takes “9,500 steps per day” and “the average Canadian woman takes 8,400 steps per day” (source). How do your steps align with your country’s average?
Looking for even more health benefits? Add coffee! Loaded with antioxidants, coffee has been found to improve energy levels, make you smarter, fight against depression, helps to protect against liver disease/Type 2 diabetes/Parkinson’s disease/gout, and promote a healthy heart. (source, source). Add friendship and laughter on top of all of that and the health benefits are maximized off of the charts!
So, the next time that you notice a small group of walkers seemingly cutting out early, think of them not as slackers, but as diligently in pursuit of optimal health and well-being.
The photo above is from our walk today. Seriously, it was like walking directly inside a painting. Below are a few shots of the regular walks we had in Beijing and surrounding areas, which we also greatly loved. (Beijing friends: do you recognize any of these spots?)