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  • Writer's pictureB. Cooper

The Unexpected Benefits To Walking For Health & Wellness

Walking is such an underrated form of exercise that is available to a lot more people. Whenever I am discussing my exercise routines with someone I always joke that they'll "never see me running", however there's actually a few reasons that I can't run. When I began walking this last fall my mom and I entered this journey together, and now that it's been six months I feel a little more comfortable explaining why, how, and what can it do for you. Let's talk about it.




Who Does Walking Benefit?


We all ask this question when we start taking our health more seriously... or is it just me? I saw people running, jogging, biking, kayaking, you name it. I am blessed to live in a city that has lots of outdoor activities available to me, with major parks, swimming holes, rivers, and more. So when I started wanting to work out more seriously, I found myself asking the same question.


Before I moved to Tennessee I did a little bit of walking in my hometown, mainly just as a way to get out in the sunshine. When I started taking it seriously last fall, it opened my eyes to a wide range of benefits this seemingly useless form of exercise can bring.


Walking is a great way to begin an exercise regimen, not all of us can start running marathons overnight. Anyone who suffers from joint pain, shin splints, flat feet, back pain, old injuries, etc. will find that walking is less stress on the body. Following low intensity workouts can help build the foundations we need to branch out and try other forms of exercise. Now, don't expect to get abs or toned muscles from this exercise alone. This is a great form of low-intensity cardio, with results that take a little longer to see. Walking is simply a way to help boost your health in more sustainable ways.


If you want to begin a health journey, but you have problems with your knees, have low energy, or simply don't know where to begin, walking is a great place to start receiving health benefits as soon as possible.



Common Benefits Of Walking


Now I work better with lists, just as a visual learner and a person in general. So what I did is find as many benefits that I could gather from several medical journals (those .gov websites. Not a cosmo article.) and I will list them here now:


  • Increases Heart and Lung fitness over time

  • Reduces Risk of Heart Diseases and Stroke

  • Helps stabilize or benefit conditions such as - hypertension, high cholesterol, joint and muscle pain, diabetes, etc.

  • Strengthens Bones

  • Improves Balance

  • Increases Muscle Strength & Endurance

  • Reduces Body Fat throughout entire body

  • Tones Legs and Abdominal muscles

  • Helps Reduce Stress

  • Increases Blood Flow throughout your entire body, but especially to your Brain

  • Benefits the Central Nervous System

  • Decreases Anxiety & Stress when walking outside in nature

  • Decreases symptoms of Depression


There are probably more benefits than I could find, but here's a general list. A lot of people in America walk two miles or less per day, less than 10,000 steps. We don't see how detrimental a sedentary lifestyle that can be to our health until we begin traveling to other countries or become interested in our own health.


When we research Blue Zones (areas of the world where the majority of people live longer than the average person, usually over 90 years) we find most of their lifestyles surround a proper diet, a strong sense of community and purpose, and mindless movement. Mindless movement can be tending to a garden, or in this particular case, lots of walking! Mindless movement may not be as 'cool' as many fitness influencers believe, but simply keeping your body moving every day can help reduce A LOT of health concerns.



My Personal Journey


I started taking a look at my health and fitness when I wanted to look good for my friends wedding in June of 2023. During that process I began working on my food choices and weight lifting. Cardio and I have never really been friends, the closest I ever got was swimming. Many people don't know this about me, but I have some health problems I was born with, and some injuries that changed my life later on.


Being born with a double hip click and a lack of cartilage in my joints doesn't sound that bad. But pictures of me in a full body cast for my first two months of life put it into perspective a bit more. In the simplest terms, I don't have a whole lot holding my joints together which led to dozens of dislocations of knees and hips growing up. My ankles are horribly weak so I'm constantly rolling or twisting those joints. There are photos of me in middle school with braces covering one whole leg, giving me the tan lines of a candy cane. Getting into swimming gave me a sense of accomplishment I could never really have doing track or softball or gymnastics. I became a competitive swimmer for four years and a water polo player for six years. During my sophomore year I received the first of two back injuries that changed how I live my life.


By the time this photo was taken, I healed from my first fractures and played the sport without telling anyone I broke my back... (2017)

I fractured two vertebrae my lower spine. Thankfully, they were hairline fractures that didn't completely ruin my life. However, I was told to give up all sports and any activities that would put me at risk. Basically, I was told to protect my back and live in fear of losing my ability to walk for the rest of my life. Something the spiteful, stubborn woman I am laughed at.


I played water polo for the rest of high school knowing the day my final season ended would probably be the last day I ever play the sport again. I still swim and enjoy water-based activities because it's good for joints and core. In my early twenties I fell in a pretty embarrassing situation and actually re-fractured my spine. I won't go into details about the event, but I will say the video of it happening is hilarious. My chiropractor has told me my bones are older than I am due to all the injuries, not a very flattering comment I will say.


So now here I am at 25, despite all of that I became a rock climber, I finished the PNW's 52 hike challenge, I run a micro farm, I walk 25 miles a week, and I'm preparing to begin traveling internationally again in the next year or two. My wellness journey may look a little differently than others,

so I aspire to set attainable goals for anyone who may struggle

with the same things I struggle with.


In November I began walking three times a week with my mom, originally in an attempt to fix my sleeping schedule, now has become a routine that has really benefited my day-to-day life. Now, I don't own a scale so I can't give you any numbers, all I know is I was 146 pounds in October when I did my routine doctors visit. When I started this journey I told myself that numbers don't matter (Muscle weighs more than Fat anyway), all that mattered was how I looked and felt in my body. So I'll show some pictures from last year and some more recent pictures to show any differences I may have.


Before:



After:



How To Start


How I started is I found a nice greenway in my city to walk. This could be a park, a bike path, a neighborhood, anything with space to walk and it helps if there's pretty things to look at. Having a walking buddy is not only helpful but safer too depending on where you live. What helped me find the motivation to start was finding a coffee shop on an easily walkable greenway, and told myself if I wanted my morning coffee I needed to walk to it. This helped me get out of the house, gave me an attainable walking goal, and I have become friends with most of the baristas in that coffee shop now!


Here's a list of helpful tips that I personally used to start my journey:

  • Find a nice place to walk (park, greenway, bike path, neighborhood, etc.)

  • Bring a buddy (Not only helps the time and miles pass by, but is safer than walking alone)

  • Set an attainable goal (Today I'll walk to _____, or Today I'll walk ___ miles)

  • Start at 2x a week and work your way up (You will be sore after walking, give yourself rest time between walks)

  • If muscle toning/definition is the goal, add in 2-3 days of weight lifting, Pilates, or any kind of strength training (low or high intensity)


I am lucky to live in a place that is very friendly to outdoor activities and is relatively safe, so I want to emphasize safety when doing this. Seriously, bring a buddy or pepper spray or anything that can help you stay safe, the world is a little crazy. Walking has loads of benefits and has helped me meet so many fun people and see amazing things in my city I never would've found otherwise. So it's still an exercise I highly recommend.


Mindless movement is a great start to every wellness journey. Even cleaning your house is considered mindless movement! In America we tend to live very sedentary lives, so anyone searching for ways to improve their health usually can see amazing benefits right away if they just get moving in any kind of way.



Six Months In


Now that it's been six months, I've noticed a lot of fat loss. In the last two months I've added at-home Pilates to the mix to start toning up my body again. I'm not sure number wise if I've gone down, I don't feel that much lighter, but I've had to purchase a bunch of new clothes since starting this. That bridesmaids dress from my friends wedding in 2023? I had it tailored to be very snug on me for the event, but now hangs off me with at least 2 inches off my waist. Crazy to think about actually.


Being in the sunshine three times a week has helped me mentally as well. Vitamin D is very important to curbing symptoms of depression and anxiety. While I haven't had depression in a long time, I am hyper aware when I start to get anxious. Hormones play a lovely role in my anxiety, so being outside in nature and sunshine as much as I can be always helps.


The amount of money I have spent on coffee is through the roof... That coffee shop is a close friend at this point and a fantastic motivator... but I usually made coffee at home before this adventure. So I'm not sure my advice would help anyone's financial wellness. But I now look and feel great when I do drink my little drink.


I'm hoping to put more emphasis on my health this year, so let's go on that journey together! If you start walking in your communities make sure to tag me on Instagram and we can share our journeys together! Until Next Time~



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