Feel Good Friday: Walk This Way

There’s a lot of information out there on which diet is best. Low Carb, Keto, Carnivore, Vegan, Paleo, Mediterranean, See-food (my personal favorite), and the list can go on and on.

The same could be said about workout routines. Cycling, running, swimming, Orange Theory, Crossfit (maybe you haven’t heard about this one), Planet Fitness (Pizza anyone?), and again the list goes on and on.

We could probably talk to 100 different people and get a varied opinion on how to eat and how to work out. Everyone’s goals aren’t the same so the honest answer that should be given 100% of the time should be every lawyer’s favorite answer: “It depends.” And it does depend. Fasting works for some people, and others it doesn’t. HIIT training works for a lot of people but doesn’t for many others. Some people prefer to work out alone and blast music in their headphones, while others like the accountability of working out in a class setting.

Lately though, there’s this new (very very very old) workout that is picking up steam. It can be done alone or with a few friends. It can be done at a slow pace or a faster pace. You can do it at the gym or around your house. It’s been proven to burn fat, improve cardiovascular function, boost energy levels, and helps alleviate depression and fatigue. And maybe my personal favorite thing about it: my dog can join in the fun (but not in a Goat Yoga kind of way).

What is this miracle pill of a workout, you ask? The origins can be traced back to the beginning of man, and almost everyone can do it. It’s called Walking, or maybe it’s pronounced “Alking,” with a silent W. Either way, it goes like this:

Step 1: take a step

Step 2: take another step

Step 3: repeat steps 1 & 2 until you feel like stopping (pro tip: if you go outside, make sure to turn around and go back at some point)

Crazy right? BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!  Ok, maybe that’s all. Most people don’t think of walking as this powerhouse of exercise, but it’s having a renaissance right now and it needs to be talked about more. For starters, it gets us outside more. We are becoming more and more sun-starved and the benefits of the sun on our face can be difficult to replace in any other form.

The goal for exercise continues to be 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Most people think they don’t have time in their hectic days, or they don’t like the meatheads at the gym. But what if you took a five-minute walking break, six times a day? Walk around your office and say hi to your co-workers or take a step outside on a nice day and walk around the block and get your eyes off the screen.

The point is, the 30 minutes doesn’t have to come all at once, and it doesn’t have to be this sweat-inducing event to be an effective routine. The fitness trackers have got us believing that 10,000 steps is the standard, but the truth is that that number is completely arbitrary.  10,000 steps is a great goal if you can get there, but so is 7500, or even 5000 if you’re use to getting 1000. And just like any other goal, once you start to hit that goal consistently, increase it a little at a time.

For the average person, walking can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and help with depression and anxiety. The naysayer is going to talk about how running is so much better, and you’d have to walk to the moon and back for it to really work. But first, tell the naysayer to shut up when they’re talking to you. Second, the naysayer can be reminded that in the United States, 42% of people are considered obese.

The goal is not to make everyone into a bodybuilder or a triathlete. The goal is to get people off the couch and out of the morgue. Maybe you start running after a while, and that’s awesome too, but the goal doesn’t have to be to make it harder and harder to sustain. Walking (generally) won’t leave you sore or achy, and it can be easily repeated no matter where you are in the world. You don’t need to find a gym, and you can do it at a hotel or work conference.

Here are a few more things to know about walking, and why you need to start it, or even why you may want to add it to your current workout routine:

  • Walking preserves muscle. If your goal is to burn body fat, it may sound funny, but muscle is king. Your body burns more calories the more muscle you have, so preserving muscle is super important.
  • Increasing your current step count by just 1000 steps a day can decrease your risk of death by 12%.
  • Walking uses more fat as a percentage of fuel than running. This doesn’t mean that you burn more calories, but because you can walk for longer periods of time, it’s more sustainable.

In Arkansas, there are plenty of reasons to get outside and put one foot in front of the other. From the River Trail to hiking trails, or even just getting out in the neighborhood. Your life is valuable and taking care of your health should be one of your top priorities.