Walk Outside: Wellness Challenge
Walk for 10 minutes each day this week
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
- Take a 10-minute walk outside each day this week.
- Use your walk as a break between activities to reflect, generate calmness, energize or spark creativity.
- While walking, notice your surroundings – be mindful of the sights, sounds and smells around you. Being aware of your environment helps to keep your mind in the here and now.
- Unplug from technology and let yourself stay mindful of the present moment. Avoid distractions such as music, phone calls, texts, games and social media.
- If the weather is poor, consider walking anyway. Check the forecast the day before and set aside proper fowl-weather gear/clothes. If need be, invest in proper gear.
- After seven days, decide whether or not to keep a walk as part of your daily routine.
- Schedule your walks. Look at this week’s schedule now and decide when you will walk each day. Will it be in the morning? At lunch? After work? Add this walk it to your calendar and treat it like any other appointment.
- Check the weather. Know the weather forecast ahead of time and prepare for adverse conditions.
- Set out your clothes. Organize your fitness clothes and shoes ahead of time. Each night, gather your clothes, footwear and foul-weather gear. Set them aside so that the next day, all you need to do is grab, dress and walk out the door.
- Stretch. Make flexibility and mobility exercises part of your walking routine. Remember to do a proper warm-up and cool-down pre and post walk.
- Plan several different routes. Walking route variety will keep your walks interesting and fun.
- Tell someone. If you are walking alone, tell someone which route you are taking and always walk in safe, well-lit locations.
- Find a buddy. Ask a friend or family member to walk with you. Having a walking buddy can help you stay committed to your walking routine.
- Bring a phone. Be prepared for emergencies by carrying a cell phone.
- Record your progress. Use a paper journal, fitness tracker/app, and/or pedometer to record the distance you walk and how long it takes. Seeing your progress is inspiring and may help you stay motivated and consistent with this wellness challenge.
- Walk at work. Turn your work meetings into walk and talk meetings. Watch a TED talk about this here.
Why is this practice important?
Walking has numerous physical, mental and emotional benefits. You may find yourself less stressed, happier, more focused and healthier after creating a new habit of walking everyday. Here are some ways walking is healthy for you.
- Walking improves circulation and cardiovascular health. When you walk, your calves act as venous pumps, contracting and pumping blood from the feet and legs back up to the heart. This strengthens your heart, lowers blood pressure, and reduces your risk for heart diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
- Walking prevents and reverses risk factors of metabolic syndrome. Risk factors of metabolic syndrome include elevated blood pressure, dyslipidemia, impaired glycemic control and abdominal obesity. Walking reduces blood pressure, lowers fat accumulation within the body and regulates blood-sugar levels. This reduces your risk of metabolic disease like Type 2 Diabetes.
- Walking leads to a longer life. Consistent, moderate physical activity such as brisk walking can increase life expectancy by several years, even for people who are overweight. People who walk regularly tend to live longer than their non-walking counterparts.
- Walking improves sleep. Studies have shown that those who walk regularly tend to fall asleep faster and sleep better than people who do not.
- Walking enhances mood and lowers stress levels. Walking is one of the fastest, most effective ways to calm down. It lowers your cortisol stress hormone levels and releases natural painkilling endorphins. This improves your mood, enhances self-esteem, reduces loneliness and decreases depressive symptoms. Scientists have also discovered that walking in the woods (“forest bathing”) and smelling the scents of the forest can have powerful effects on your health and emotions. Pine, fir, cedar and cypress trees contain phytoncides such as alpha-pinene and beta-pinene which make up the essential oils of many plants and trees. These are known to decrease levels of the cortisol stress hormone.
- Walking can lead to fat loss. Movement such as walking burns calories and can help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Walking strengthens muscles and bones. Walking strengthens your legs, core and even arms. The weight-bearing impact of walking helps to maintain and improve bone density. It also improves your balance and coordination.
- Walking supports your joints. The majority of your joint cartilage does not receive a direct supply of blood. It gets its nutrition from synovial or joint fluid that circulates as you move your body. Impact that comes from movement or compression, such as walking, presses the cartilage in between your joints and drives oxygen and nutrients into the joints. This enhances joint lubrication, improves joint range of motion and prevents joint deterioration. It also helps to reduce pain and inflammation within your joints.
- Walking improves eye health. According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, people who participate in regular aerobic conditioning such as walking have healthier eyes and are less likely to suffer from problems like retinal degeneration and age-related vision loss.
- Walking stimulates your mind and boosts brainpower. Low-to-medium intensity walking enhances creativity and can help you find a solution to a work problem or inspiration for a project. A study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that walking improved both convergent and divergent thinking, the two types of thinking associated with enhanced creativity.
- Walking slows mental decline and improves memory. Walking increases blood flow to the brain and causes growth in the connections between cells. This increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion. In return, this reduces age related memory decline.
- Walking lowers Alzheimer’s risk. Walking protects your brain by lessening your risk of getting cognitive illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Compared to those who walked less, people who walk daily tend to have half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Will you walk this week?
I want to hear your thoughts and experiences.
- Will you walk for at least 10 minutes every day this week?
- Do you struggle to find the time or energy to consistently get outside for a walk? What are the obstacles you face? What can you do to overcome these challenges?
- Is walking a wellness practice that you will stick with after this week? Why or why not?
Past wellness practices
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When she is not slaying fat and building muscle, Jennifer can be found trekking barefoot, traveling, cooking and refining her photography skills. She also enjoys reading and writing about food culture, history and the science of human movement.