One of my fondest memories growing up is walking home from school. After the long cold winters in Chicago, walking home meant spring had officially arrived. My grandmother would meet me on the corner, and we would walk home together. We didn’t talk much, but the time felt special.
When I transferred schools, I remember begging my parents to let me walk. School was a further distance now, and my parents were very protective. But when I found out my friend, who lived only a block away, walked to school EVERY DAY, I became impossible! My mother finally relented. Nothing said “big kid” like being able to walk to school WITHOUT an adult.
Walking felt like freedom. Just like a driver’s license to a teen…it made me feel independent.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized there was more to walking than that feeling of freedom. Who knew? And I wouldn’t have cared much at six years old, but I care now. Walking, it turns out, has a ton of benefits. My grandmother was way ahead of the times in getting her steps in. I’m not sure she knew it was so good for her, she just knew it was something she loved, and she missed it when she couldn’t do it anymore.
National Walking Day
Walking is the unsung hero of the exercise world, maybe because it seems so common or mundane. We are now so dependent upon cars to get us from here to there. And overall, our lives are just a lot less active. Here’s a little something you should know: Every year on the first Wednesday of April is National Walking Day! Should you take time to celebrate? Absolutely! And here’s why:
Walking is beneficial in many ways: It helps maintain heart health. It helps to keep you at a healthy weight. It’s easy on your joints. Overall, it can help you maintain a healthy body which helps you stay free from diseases like cancer. Uganda is the most physically active nation in the world according to a recent report by the World Health Organization in 2018. And walking is at the center of their physical activities.
Just as important as the physical health benefits, walking is good for your mental health. I have found walking to be an amazing form of therapy. My early mornings are often spent taking a brisk walk at the local park. It’s my time to process all that is happening in my very busy mind. Walking seems to help me sort things out. Sometimes I walk in silence. On other days, the soundtrack of nature all around me plays in my ears. I’ve even been known to get my phone calls out of the way, which for this introvert that is a win!
Grab A Friend
I have had the pleasure on some mornings of sharing my walk time with a friend. It helps us catch up. Both of us are homeschool moms, and our busy schedules don’t allow us much free time, but that hour every Wednesday is something we both cherish. When we have to miss our meeting, my day feels incomplete.
It is well-documented that walking can enhance your mood. It can literally make you feel happier. I tell my family often, “You need me to walk!” They’ve come to see that mommy is a lot less scary when she can have time to walk.
All that’s recommended is 30 minutes a day. And on days when I don’t feel up to the task of working out at all, 30 minutes feels doable. Even at a slow pace, you can still get some of the benefits.
Walk, Don’t Run
So many other types of exercise require equipment and preparation. And then there are those that require you to go to a specific location. Walking demands very little. All you need are comfy shoes and a sidewalk.
One thing I sometimes take advantage of is how close I live to the grocery store. So, I have been known to forsake the car in my driveway and head to the grocery store on foot instead. I think it’s the big city girl who still lives in me. After all, there was once a time when I would walk two miles to catch a bus after working all day.
I think what’s most important to remember is that walking is something you get to do. And there are many who wish they could. After my grandmother broke her hip, she was never able to walk more than a few steps.
With that, I say let’s seize this opportunity to celebrate what most of us do without a thought and to recognize the benefits of walking more. Leash up your dog, who you know is always ready for a walk outside. Call a friend. Or just grab your earbuds and go for a stroll. Remember, walking doesn’t make demands, so whether you saunter or hike, your body is going to be the better for it. And your mind will, too.
And one more thing. Don’t forget to greet the other walkers you pass. Nobody wants to walk alone.