Walking Back To Happiness

Running is so on trend right now isn’t it?

Seemingly most people you meet are dressed for exercise.   I am certainly guilty of that one.  Gone are days of the twin set and pearls but believe me, I wore them in a previous life.

Park Run is mushrooming.

I’m sure you know a few people cracking on with the Couch to 5k challenge.

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

This is part of a wider fashion trend in exercise: it is becoming more full-on.  The trendy things are running, often quite long distances, Triathlon, High Intensity Interval Training, Spin Classes. Weight Training is definitely back in vogue.

Collectively we may be in danger of overlooking the benefits of walking and perceiving it as lesser exercise.  It is lesser in so far as it is gentler but here’s the thing: Human Beings were not evolved to do exercise, Humans are evolved to move and walk

One of the reasons we “take” exercise is to substitute for the lack of movement variety in our lives.     Of course there are other reasons too. Competitive sport is very sociable, group exercise is inherently communal and gives us all a sense of togetherness with other participants.  This could be a simple as smiling  at each other as we enter class or collectively groaning when something is really difficult.  You can use exercise to mindfully detach from the stresses and strains of everyday life, or as thinking time to help reflect upon work or everyday life.  It is a challenge.  It helps promote weight loss or with stabilising weight.  And the list goes on…….

Nevertheless we are evolved to move and whilst walking may not be trendy exercise, it is definitely REALLY GOOD MOVEMENT!  Arguably it is vital movement.

In Praise of Walking

It is inclusive:  most people can walk a bit and often walks can include folks in wheelchairs or prams or things with more than 2 legs

It is much less daunting than more intense exercise.   Many people are put off by exercise because it is intense, or the imagery is, often unintentionally, intimidating.  Walking is (although not always) more of a matter of get up and go.     If you are depressed or anxious, or very physically out of condition then getting up and going for a walk can be daunting.   However it  is easier to attempt than most other forms of exercise.

Walking is one of the ultimate forms of functional exercise. By functional I mean that you can apply it directly to daily life.  Doing a Plank Exercise for 30 seconds may have indirect benefits for you but unless you are planing to run away and join the circus, you are unlikely to be adopting the position outside the exercise class.     With walking, if you do more it becomes easier – you can become faster, less breathless, get less tired.

It is free.  No equipment, gear, special shoes or clothes required

In comparison to sitting fairly still, walking will stimulate the heart and circulation.    Muscle action gently assists blood flow in the arms and legs.  By the time thee blood has reached the legs, the pumping action of the heart is weaker and needs help from nearby muscles contracting and relaxing

Calories burned

This is a very contested debate.    There are so many variables here: fitness, muscle mass, gender, body fat levels, the quality of the breathing.  Then there is timing, speed, efficiency  of moment.  For these reasons it is very hard to estimate what calories you might burn when walking.

The current vogue is for high intensity work outs as a way to improve body fat loss.   This dos not always lead to success.  Ask anyone who has struggled to lose weight and they will tell you that simply eating less  and/or taking vigorous exercise does not always yield results.  Fasting for fat loss is the latest theory being put forwards and a reaction to the relative failure of the exercise/eating less model.           This blog post is not intended to put forwards methods for weight loss, but I would like to point out this:  Steady, low intensity exercise like  walking may be just as beneficial for gentle weight loss.  During  high intensity workouts  the demand for energy in the muscle is rapid and high.  Circulating blood sugar and liver stores will be used up and it may simply take too long to mobilise stored fat reserves, especially if you are de-conditioned.

Walking Meetings

Isn’t this a lovely idea? I’m so struck by it I wanted to include it here.  Instead of being in the boardroom, walk around the block.  Smart phones make it even easier to stay in contact and check up on facts and the minute taker can record their notes using an audio recording app.

Make time to focus on the breath

How many of us need to pay attention to our breath: the way we breathe and the speed of it.  When you take a walk, even if you are thinking about things or talking to someone, there is little else to do.  What better  time is there to focus on the breathing?  Maybe slow the breath down a little?  Ideally notice that the ribs expand at the base on the in in-breate.   Be aware that breathing isn’t all in the collar bones and upper ribs.

Movement Benefits

Where shall I start?  There is an embarrassment of riches.  Walking will:

  • help the pelvic stabiliser muscles to get stronger.  They are vital to maintain the essential asymmetry in the body that takes place during walking
  • encourage you to stand taller.  Walking is much easier if you avoid stooping
  • encourage natural trunk rotation.  Sounds dull I know, but essential for spine mobility, general flexibility and efficiency in walking and running
  • help to keep the shoulders mobile.   No handbags though  because you need to allow the arms to swing naturally by your side. (No children, mobile phones, or water bottles either!)
  • is preferable to running if you knees are a bit iffy.  The same goes if you have large breasts.  So much easier
  • alleviate many of the negatives associated with sitting.  It will make you stretch out the front of the hips and  get the buttocks working because they have to hold you up

But Do Watch Out For…..

…..your alignment and consider just a little bit of “technique”.     I couldn’t resist a few teaching points:

  • Aim to have your head on top of your body rather than jutting forwards.
  • Aim to elegantly stand and walk tall.  This shouldn’t be a big effort or require gripping, fixing or bracing though.
  • Along side the length in the spine,  aim for width in the collar bones and shoulder blades that glide down and  away from your ears.
  • Ideally don’t hold anything in your hands.  This is asking a lot I know.   Keep ruck sacks to a minimum weight
  • Your foot steps should be symmetrical with very little turnout of the feet
  • Try not to shuffle

These Boots Are Made For Walking

Or are they?

Flip flops or anything not secure at the back mean that you have to grip with your toes to keep them on.  This is not ideal for walking.

If you have flat feet then be aware of your shoe choices when you walk.

Anything with heels will send your body slightly forwards.   This is not ideal over long distances because your body weight is disproportionately in the ball of the foot and not the heels.  However for people with Plantar Fasciatis and other foot issues a slight heel such as the one you get in trainers maybe preferable


So, I’ve talked the walk

Now all we need to do is walk the walk


courtesy of Nancy Sinatra maybe,  or would you prefer Helen Shapiro?

4 thoughts on “Walking Back To Happiness

  1. Try Nordic walking it excercises the whole body and engages the core socially it is brilliant you are chating to other people in the group our in the fresh air in the country side Wakefield run free ones poles are supplyed training is also free trainers are all friendly and nice and welcoming event if you are from Leeds! Wakefield council have a web page

  2. I also love the idea of a ‘Walking Meeting’ – am sufficiently inspired to trial it for my line managees in September. Will let you know how it goes!

    • so you weren’t timed out Becky! Yes it is a good idea isn’t it. Not mine though…. I came across it on LinkedIN ages ago. You don’t have eye contact as much with people but this can be a good thing sometimes and definitely fresh air inspiration. Good luck cuz x

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