During the summer Olympics, it pained me to watch the power walking (technical name: racewalking) competitions. And I mean this literally. I actually get immensely uncomfortable when I watch it. I become overcome with a burning desire to see the athletes break into a sprint. I can see it in their eyes. They want to start running. I want them to start running. They are on the brink, and I wish I could just give them a tiny push right over that edge. But, alas, they just continue to flirt with that boundary line that separates walking really really fast from running. And it drives me bananas because all I'm thinking is: "Go ahead. Do it. Make a run for it!"
But I digress...
Truth is, I have never been a "power walker". And I always thought - why waste time just walking when you can go for a jog or engage in some other form of physical activity that is much more effective?
And then I had a change of heart.
Taking a stroll on a nice summer evening or Sunday afternoon has recently become one of my favorite things to do here in the city. It's a perfect time to decompress and get out and smell the roses, green grass and fresh summer breeze (...or, if you live in NYC, the char-grilled burgers from the restaurant on the corner, the fried chicken and waffles from the nearest food truck or that mysterious maple syrup smell in the air). I also love taking long walks while catching up with friends and family (either with a walking buddy or else, I gear up for a walk, slap on my iphone headset and dial up my out-of-town besties). And, while I have always been a skeptic of the physical benefits of walking, I have come around to the fact that walking really is a great form of exercise (and my thighs can vouch for that).
And, so as not to rely purely on my burning thighs, I did a little research on the benefits of walking, and here's what I found. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking helps you:
- Burn calories (I know, I'm blowing your mind...)
- Lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol)
- Raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol)
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce risk of diabete
- Lose weight
- Improve your mood
- Counteract osteoporosis (because it's a weight-bearing exercise)
And the kicker is - there are studies that show that walking can be just as effective as running. It might also be more accessible than running is to most people (not to mention easier on your joints) - if the idea of going on a 3 mile run sounds daunting to you (as it currently does to me), trying walking. And even if you're a workout/running/yoga fiend, we all have those days when we just don't feel like breaking a sweat or need a rest (perhaps because we had one-too-many tequila shots the night before??) - so take a walk instead (and grab a green juice on the way out... great cure for a hangover).
So if you're not big into exercising, or if you're looking for something to supplement your regular routine, take a hike (or just a walk) and go out and smell the maple syrup.