If you can only do one kind of exercise do this one

The power of walking.

power of walking

Walking is the best form of exercise you can do for your health.

No other exercise provides the same health benefits as walking does. Not running, cycling, lifting weights or any other.

Swimming comes close but is logistically harder to do. Walking, on the other hand, you can do anywhere you like.

When I say it’s good for health – I don’t mean fitness or strength.

There is a difference between good health and fitness performance. The former is about preserving a healthy body and the latter is about optimizing the body to perform faster and stronger.

Of course, lifting weights, running, cycling and occasionally beasting yourself on the treadmill or rowing machine are good for you too.

But in the unlikely situation you’re given the option to do only one exercise for the rest of your life choose walking.

The thing that’s so special about walking is your body is in constant motion. Staying active is where the magic lies.

When your body is constantly moving it’s easier to maintain weight, burn energy and increase blood flow to the brain.

Walking is vital to your overall health and longevity.

In our desk-sitting, screen-based, Uber-calling world, people are becoming lazier. Their day mainly consists of sitting down.

A typical working day may look like: couch to the car, car to desk, desk to car, car to the couch.

If this represents your typical day you need to break the habit.

Walking for longevity is one of the most beneficial yet underrated types of exercises you can do.

I walk on average around nine miles a day. Living in a vast yet crowded city like London gives me the opportunity to constantly walk from place to place.

If you walk around the countryside, great. You don’t have to put up with the vehicle and people congestion and your lungs will be taking in cleaner air.

I’m what you might call an urban walker.

I avoid public transport whenever I can (which is most of the time) and I don’t drive my car into central London. If you’ve ever tried driving in central London you’ll understand why.

Walking has numerous benefits to it, which include;

Walking helps prevent weight gain

Walking causes little strain on the muscles.

Yesterday I walked over 10 miles and burned around 1,100 calories doing it.

Today I feel fine and can easily walk the same distance no problem.

If I’d have run 10 miles it would have been a different story. I would have muscle fatigue and would have had to wait at least three or four days before I could run the same distance again.

Walking regularly keeps the body active. You’re constantly burning energy while at the same time not tiring yourself out.

Do it for a few weeks along with eating good foods (along with some cheat meals) and the weight will drop off assuming that’s your goal.

Walking helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases

Studies have shown that walking prevents hypertension, type II diabetes and cholesterol.

Running does the same but too much of it is bad for the body in the long term. How many well-built long distance runners do you know?

That’s not to say you should run but use walking alongside as a means to reduce your long-term risk of chronic diseases.

Walking is good for brain health

Most types of cardiovascular exercise including walking is good for improving cognitive function and mood. In an era where depression and anxiety are spiralling out of control measures to combat these issues should be prioritised.

When I go out and walk through London (or anywhere) for a couple of hours I feel a sense of clarity and calm. I’m more focused and my mood has gone up a couple of levels.

Walking, along with running, is a form of meditation. I can drift into a state of deep thinking and relaxation. I do some of my best thinking while walking.

walking for brain health

Walking allows you to take time out and educate yourself as you exercise

I subscribe to a ton of podcasts and there’s no better way to listen intently and absorb the information in them than when walking.

There’s something about walking that helps concentrate the mind which allows you to focus and meditate on the content.

Listening to podcasts and audiobooks is one of the best ways to self-educate. As humans, we’ve been listening much longer than we’ve been reading.

Nietzsche said, “It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth” and while that not be technically true, walking allows you to open your mind to new ideas and concepts.

Walking makes you feel connected to other humans and your environment

An overlooked benefit of walking is it enhances your connection to everyone and everything around you.

Make eye contact with people as you pass by, have an idle conversation with the barista as he makes your coffee or giving someone’s dog a pet in the park will help you feel more connected with other people and your environment.

Walking allows you to see parts of a city you would otherwise miss

I know all of central London and parts of greater London like the back of my hand.

I know where historic landmarks are that helped shape the world as it is today.

I can show you where famous people in history like Vincent van Gogh and George Orwell lived during their time in the city.

Directions to the parks, best coffee places and 200-year-old pubs are all inside my head.

If I’d have depended on public transport I wouldn’t experience the real parts of the city.

And I wouldn’t get to see sights like this every day.

The views on my walk into London

I do exactly the same in other cities too.

When I mention how much I walk to most people they grimace as if it’s some difficult feat of human achievement.

In reality, it’s the most natural form of transport.

Our ancestors likely walked for many miles a day looking for food and evading other tribes. It’s in our DNA to walk far and often.

Walking has little impact on the bones, joints and muscles so you can do it often without worrying about injury or fatigue. That’s why walking for longevity is a no-brainer.

If you’re into self-tracking use a smartphone app to track your distance and calories. Gamify the process and try and beat your record each week.

I use the Moves app on my iPhone.

moves app

If you currently don’t walk far start small. Try a couple of miles.

If you work within a few miles of work try walking there. Put in a podcast and just go.

You’ve got to start moving.

Staying active is only one part of the puzzle to achieve optimum health, but it’s a very big part.

Use it or lose it.

Written by Ste Davies

Ste ‘Stephen’ Davies is a freelance digital consultant, traveller, writer, podcaster and speaker based in London, UK. You can reach him here or follow him on Twitter below.

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