We've all been there: It's the day after a brutal leg workout, and all you want to do is sit on your butt and rest. Your thighs hurt, your calves feel stiff, and your lower back moans at even the thought of standing. I, too, have fallen into this trap. Sitting feels good when you're sore, and initiating movement can be unpleasant at first. However, once you get going, an hour or two of low-intensity activity is known to aid your body in achieving optimal recovery. So what's the best choice? Treadmill? Stationary bike? Nope—for me, it's walking.
Seriously, where do you think the expression "walk it off" comes from? Going for a stroll is a fantastic way to promote circulation, particularly in your lower body, reducing inflammation and stiffness, but its benefits don't end there.
You were walking long before you ever "worked out," but that doesn't mean you've outgrown one and have to focus on the other! I get it; it can be easy to think walking doesn't "count," but take it from me: Walking is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
The Original Activity
"Walking more" is one of the first steps many people take when they're trying to get fit or lose weight, and guess what? They're on the right track! An hour or two of walking several times a week can add up in terms of caloric output. It's perfect if you're the type of lifter who abhors cardio. Add a decent incline into the mix, and the cardiovascular benefits can begin to increase exponentially.
If you live in a metropolitan area, you probably already use walking as a mode of transportation to some degree. But you can always walk more. Many people are surprised how getting off a train stop or two short of their destination and walking the rest of the way doesn't set them back much time, if at all.
Have to commute in a car and then sit at a desk? You can still park at the far end of the lot or a street away to add a little walking between your sitting sessions. Anything to avoid more chair time, right?
As a New York City resident, I walk for an hour or more every day just to run errands and get around town. It's definitely easier than driving here! That said, I still make time for additional walks simply for their own sake. No matter where you live, it's worth going for a long walk a few times a week—in addition to your strength training, of course.
Walk Away From Stress
Besides the physical benefits, walking can be an excellent way to relieve stress. That phrase "walk it off" applies to more than just sore legs; If I'm upset about something, a long walk can often help me simmer down and deal with pent-up frustrations. A solitary stroll can also be a calming, meditative experience. To get the most out of it, leave your phone at home.
In this day and age, we rarely get to spend time alone with our thoughts, though that is often what many of us need. It's nice to have the chance to think things through without the distractions that inevitably come up at home or in the office. Though the first few minutes may feel tedious, the longer I walk, the more quickly time seems to pass. Take your time, and embrace the journey.
If you're being mindful, you can learn a lot about your body mechanics by paying attention to your gait. You can even use walking to gauge your posture and screen your movement quality. Ask yourself the following questions during your walk to assess yourself:
- Are my footfalls light and airy or heavy and lumbering?
- Do my feet maintain their integrity throughout each phase of my stride, or do my arches collapse as I transition from my heel to my forefoot?
- Do I walk with my chest tall and shoulders relaxed, or am I hunched over?
As you go through that checklist, make it a point to correct and improve whatever you can. If you notice yourself crashing down hard on your heels, focus on controlling your steps more and landing more gently. If your arches are collapsing, think about engaging your ankle and toe muscles to bring stability to your stride.
If your posture is problematic, imagine a string is attached to the top of your head, then pretend that you are being pulled upward by that string. Ideally, your shoulders should wind up directly above your hips, rather than in front of them or behind them. Focus on looking ahead, rather than down, as that can negatively affect your posture as well.
Let's Go For A Walk
In addition to being a great way to enjoy some time to yourself, walking is also one of the best ways to spend leisure time with friends and family. It definitely beats sitting around or parking in front of the tube!
If you've got a sedentary loved one you've been trying to inspire toward fitness, a walk on a nice day is a great way to introduce them to a healthier lifestyle without the anxiety a formal workout or gym visit can produce. If you are a dog lover, you can even bring your furry friends along for the journey. Pets needs exercise, too!
So what are you waiting for? Let's go for a walk!