Envy is an ugly thing.
But I’ve got to admit that when I see one of my friends fit as a fiddle, ripped and lean after their last immersion in the latest exercise craze—I’m a bit envious. Why can’t I have the fortitude, gumption, stick-to-it-ness, sisu, or just plain guts to persevere through one those incredibly challenging exercise programs? Why can’t I transform my pathetic fleshy softness into ab-hardened steel?
But if you look around you, most people are in the same boat. We’re soft and out-of-shape. You probably are too.
Yet, that’s why walking is so great.
It’s relatively easy, hugely beneficial, and there’s no intimidation factor.
You Do it Every Day. Just Do it More.
Look, even the most chronic couch potatoes walk around their house. For most people walking is relatively easy—just stand up, balance, and go. The beauty of walking is that instead of requiring gobs of gumption it only requires a little time.
In our lazy sit, drive, convenience-oriented society we’re programmed to want things easy. So walking is that sort of thing. It’s fairly easy.
And that’s not only okay, it’s terrific.
When you’re out of shape, hardcore exercise programs are daunting. If your program is easier, it’s more likely that you’ll do it. So, when my friends ask me what the best exercise program is, I say, “The one that you’ll do.”
It’s a Deceptively Good-For-You Exercise
So it doesn’t look like much. It doesn’t look like “real” exercise.
But it is.
In fact, there are tremendous benefits that come from just walking.
For one, your joints love it.
Did you know that you actually damage your joints by being inactive? The cartilage in your joints isn’t well supplied with blood. Yet your joints need oxygen, vitamins, minerals, and water to be healthy. So how do they get it?
It’s called “squash and suck” (or loading and unloading).
When you take a step during walking, the joints in your ankles, knees, hips, and spine get “squashed”. Then when you pick up your foot to move forward, the same joints “suck” in nutrients (like a sponge). When you’re inactive they can’t do this—so they get thin and atrophy. One of the best exercises for spinal disc degeneration is walking—for this very reason.
Walking is also good for the heart.
Just thirty minutes of walking five times a week can cut your risk of heart disease by up to 40 percent.
It also elevates your mood, helps to treat depression, and decreases the risk of diabetes and many other diseases.
And it’s a great calorie-burner. Yes, more intense exercises burn more calories quicker—but don’t discount the calorie burn of walking. In general, running burns three times more calories than walking—but walking burns three times more calories than sitting.
It’s a Sneaky Gateway to More Exercise
So you hate the thought of exercise? Do you cringe at the word? Then don’t think of it that way. Think of it as “living life”—that you’re simply getting out for some “fresh air.” Tell yourself you just want to see what’s happening in the neighborhood or to enjoy the seasons. Call it what you want—you’ll get the same benefits.
For many people it’s just easy enough to get them off the couch. And once they walk through that “gate” new possibilities appear. After conquering a regular walking routine, some may feel themselves wanting to (gasp!) run, or cycle, or swim, or do aerobics.
But even if you never do anything more intense, walking—by itself—is a hugely beneficial exercise.
So put on your sneakers and walk out the door. Walk down the street and around your neighborhood. Ignore the “ultra-fits” as they dash past you with their sweat-shiny abs. Who knows—maybe you’ll be doing that too in a year.
But in the meantime, just walk.