Walking for Wellness: How You Can Benefit From Regular Walks

By Simone Jonker | December 29, 2021
Simone Jonker worked in NTD Inspired for two years. She wrote light articles and inspiring stories.
187
man-walking-with-dog-Pexels
Walking for wellness can be done alone or in groups, and is beneficial at any age. (Image: James Frid via Pexels)

Besides being the most straightforward and least expensive form of travel, walking serves as one of the most effective types of exercise to improve and preserve one’s fitness. Walking is often referred to as “a miracle therapy” by doctors due to its remarkable effects on one’s physical and mental health. Walking for wellness is simple and easy. All you need is a pair of comfy shoes, and even that is optional

Morning walks have grown more prevalent in today’s society, as they can serve as an opportunity to meet up with friends or clear the mind while also burning calories. Walking is often an ideal exercise for those who cannot participate in other, more complex activities.

Forming a good habit

Even though the benefits of walking are readily achievable, many people need some encouragement to begin and maintain a walking routine. Finding a walking buddy is one of the best tactics. 

Dr. Lauren Elson, physical medicine and rehabilitation instructor at Harvard Medical School, shared, “I find that if I can get someone to walk with a partner—a spouse or a friend—that helps a lot.” Even better is getting several friends to walk together because they all hold each other accountable. “They call each other up and say, ‘Where are you?'”

Group-walking-Pexels
Walking buddies will keep you motivated to stick with your new-found walking routine. (Image: Helena Lopes via Pexels)

On days when you walk alone, choose a safe, highly visible route near your home; perhaps through a local park, on a nearby trail or along the beach. Regular walking can be planned ahead. If you take the bus or train to work, get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way, or park your car at some distance from your destination and walk the difference. Consider walking instead of driving whenever possible.

Walkers benefit from regular practice in many ways, including some that may surprise you. 

Lesser known health benefits of walking

Walking counteracts fat-promoting genes. Harvard researchers examined  32 genes associated with obesity in over 12,000 persons to evaluate the extent to which these genes contribute to body weight. They subsequently observed that when research participants walked vigorously for around one hour daily, the impacts of those genes were reduced by half. 

According to studies, walking decreases arthritis-related discomfort and may even prevent arthritis from occurring. Walking protects joints, particularly knees and hips, against osteoarthritis by lubricating and strengthening the supporting muscles.

Regular walking can also curb a sweet tooth. Studies conducted by the University of Exeter discovered that taking a 15-minute walk may help reduce chocolate cravings and the quantity of chocolate consumed under stressful conditions; with recent studies showing that walking may help lower cravings for a range of sugary foods.

In addition, walking may help you think more clearly and creatively, as it can boost your memory, improve your ability to solve problems, help you retain information, and increase your IQ. Once you become accustomed to the physical aspects of regular walking, you might like to incorporate one or more mental activities in your exercise routine.

Practice Gratitude 

During your walk, take the time to quietly give thanks for everything you have. Practicing gratitude may improve your life, as it boosts physical and psychological health, improves sleep, increases empathy and decreases anger, and develops mental power!

Rehearse speech or debate

If you struggle with public speaking, practicing during your walk can build confidence and credibility. Speak clearly and use all the necessary hand movements. There’s no need to be embarassed; these days most people will assume you’re using your phone.

Spread joy

Don’t be afraid to smile and wave at strangers, unless of course they seem strangely dangerous. Smiles are contagious and so are waves. If you are friendly with the folks you meet on your regular walk, it will soon seem like your world is full of friends. Don’t forget to thank the motorist who gives you a wide route with a wave as well. 

The 8-Walk 

Deborah Sunbeck, a clinical psychologist, is credited with inventing a highly successful alternative walking pattern in the 1980s, although the idea dates back to ancient times, when Indian sages called Tamil Siddhas also used this therapeutic method. 

While this method does not transport you anywhere physically, it does offer many health benefits, including gradual coordination improvement. It basically involves walking in an “8-shaped” pattern, known as the “infinity walk.”

Infinity-symbol-in-sand-Flickr
The “infinity walk” is an ancient practice meant to align and harmonize the body in addition to the standard physical functions of walking. (Image: by Michael Coghlan via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

How to do the infinity walk

The 8-shape infinity walk is best done on an empty stomach in the north to south direction. It can be done inside or outside.

A six-foot wide by 12-foot tall figure eight, read in the north-south orientation is ideal. Theoretically, orienting your body to align with the Earth’s magnetic field helps to eliminate toxins. If you are doing this indoors, you can set two chairs at a convenient distance apart and walk around them with similar results.

Start walking from south to north for 15 minutes around your figure eight, then reverse and walk for 15 minutes in the opposite direction. Mindfulness is a component of this exercise; avoid using your phone so you can focus on where you are going. Walk slowly and deliberately, swinging your arms naturally. 

This walking exercise is believed to restore harmony within your body, regulating your hormones and organs so that they all function properly. The twisting and turning movements required to perform the infinity walk also stimulate the internal organs and help to make you more supple. Walking barefoot applies pressure to the reflexology points, causing them to become active. It also aids in the improvement of focus.

While the benefits range from improved hearing and vision, to relief from headaches, arthritis, and tension, infinity walking is not advised for pregnant women or cancer patients.