Walking is a relaxing and easy way to exercise. This low-impact activity is a good starting point for people who have been inactive for a long time and for people who work out regularly in other ways. Walking has proven health, benefits too. Because it’s enjoyable and beneficial, there is now a huge market for fitness trackers and apps that count our steps.
You can better appreciate and strengthen your walking routine by looking at it from five different levels: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social. Think of these five levels as a rope: the more strands you have, the stronger the rope will be. When you understand walking from these five perspectives, you are strengthening your resolve to stick to your walking routine.
I advise readers to look at these five levels when assessing their health or their weight and starting a new diet or fitness program. You can read more about these on my blog about The Five Levels of Resistance When Starting a Healthy Diet Plan.
10,000 Steps a Day Challenge
There’s an ongoing 10,000 Steps a Day challenge on our The Miracle Meal Challenge Facebook page. This trend didn’t start from science; it actually started from a pedometer marketing campaign in Japan. This pedometer was called manpo-kei and was first used during the run up to the 1964 Olympics in Japan . Several studies have been done after that, revealing the benefits of walking, including reduction of blood pressure and improving glucose levels .
If you’re just getting started with your own 10k steps a day challenge or if you are initiating a walking exercise on your own and you need extra motivation to keep going, understanding walking from these five different levels will help you.
Physical Level of Walking
Any time you start walking, you are doing something that is without doubt, healthy. Not everyone can do exercises like yoga, weight-lifting, or aerobics, but when it comes to walking, most individuals regardless of age and health status can do it. We are meant to walk long distances.
Unfortunately, many of us remain sedentary. Most jobs today require us to sit on our desk for long periods of time. This was not the way humans evolved. The way we evolved was by walking long distances. And so it is only natural that we continue to walk. When we walk, we're exercising muscles that were meant to be exercised on a continual basis and recollect another time when we were always on the go.
We are not meant to be sitting down for long periods of time. If you look at traditional cultures like provinces in Asia, you'll see people squatting. It's not because they couldn't invent chairs. The reason is this is a more natural way of sitting. A lot of traditional cultures are more in tuned to their bodies. Squatting is actually a much healthier position for people. It maintains the muscles and flexibility of the joints. It also preserves the musculature in the perineum in a way that allows people to maintain continence and sexual health later in life.
In areas around the world where people live the longest or the Blue Zones as National Geographic Fellow and author Dan Buettner calls it, one of the characteristics you will see is frequent and long distance, low-impact walking.
The problem is we are accustomed to sitting on chairs, which has negative effects on our posture and on the flexibility of our joints. We were never meant to sit the way we're sitting in the West.
There have been all kinds of studies now that show that not walking and being sedentary are incredibly harmful. Sitting has been touted to be the new “smoking.” The fact that you’re not moving triggers inflammation in the body.
In the book Deskbound: Sitting is the New Smoking, physical therapist and author Dr. Kelly Starrett presents the bad effects of too much sitting, including obesity, diabetes, and depression. He considers the chair your “enemy” as it “murders the body.” He offers strategies to reduce sitting time while improving your productivity and health .
We want to focus on the fact that we need to start walking. You will get these benefits when you walk:
- Feel better as mood improves
- Maintain muscles that are meant to be continually exercised
- Decrease inflammation in the body
- Lower blood sugar
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Increase oxygen uptake of red blood cells
- Make bowel movement regular
- Improve productivity
Walking is one of the best exercises you can do, especially when you don’t have the time to exercise and learn new routines. That’s also why the 10,000 steps daily challenge is great because it allows you to see where you are with the help of fitness trackers.
Emotional Level of Walking
As for the emotional level of walking, there have been studies that have shown that walking decreases depression and improves mood. It also increases your REM sleep, which can affect your overall emotional stability.
In one study by researchers from Thailand, they have found that walking 10,000 steps per day decreased “tension, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion, and total moved distress.” It has also “improved vigor in overweight adults with sedentary lifestyle” .
These benefits mean you are directly improving your emotional wellbeing in tangible ways when you’re walking. You're going to get neurotransmitters that are associated with feeling better about yourself. When you consistently walk long distances per day, these emotional benefits are going to give you more mental and emotional energy to be able to continue to walk. The mood boost will give you strength as you are going to experience immediate benefits within a week.
If you start walking on a regular basis, you're going to see benefits in your physical and emotional health within a week. That's how quick you’ll see the results because walking restores our bodies to the way of their natural functioning.
Intellectual Level of Walking
The intellectual level is the knowledge of what's actually going on when you're doing something. For example, when you’re eating and assessing a meal, the intellectual aspect of yourself can help you decide whether you should eat more or eat less. Your mind tells you what’s good for you and what’s not, and that empowers you to make decisions that are consistent with your health goals.
On the intellectual level of walking, when you are tempted to lounge all day instead of going for a walk, remembering the benefits associated with this exercise will help you make the right decision.
Always remember that when you start walking, you are restoring yourself to the way things were supposed to be, which is continual movement. Think about the weight loss, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and longevity benefits. Keep these in mind whenever you’re tempted to sleep an extra half hour or watch your favorite show instead of taking a walk.
Spiritual Level of Walking
Walking is an active expression of gratitude to God for being able to walk. A lot of people would trade places with you in a second if you're capable of walking and you're not doing it. If you're not actively walking, you are missing out on a part of your life that you could express to yourself and to God gratitude for having been given the ability and having the level of health that allow you to be able to walk. This gratitude doesn’t come from a place of guilt, but from genuine appreciation.
When you walk, thank God that you are capable of walking. This gratitude can inspire you to go out there and feel how your body and emotions are getting better and this is a tangible effect on all the other levels.
Social Level of Walking
Walking is a great social activity. When you take a walk with someone, your brainwave changes. It goes into a relaxed state, which makes it easier for you to have conversations with people you’re walking with. This is especially true when you’re walking in nature.
There's so many benefits to walking outside. In Japan, there's a practice called Forest Bathing, where you immerse yourself in the forest atmosphere using one’s senses. Trees actually release chemicals that induce relaxation brain-waves on both humans and animals.
Nature directly affects us through the chemicals that the trees release. The same thing happens when we walk by the beach. The crashing waves on the beach release negative ions that we inhale, which then induces an alpha brainwave state, which relaxes us.
One study by researchers in Korea observed the effects of a six-week forest-walking program on campus on undergraduate and graduate students. It reveals that walking has increased “health-promoting behavior and parasympathetic nerve activity.” It has also decreased depression . I have spoken about other ways to activate parasympathetic activity in other posts.
If you can’t walk outside because of the weather, you can use a treadmill or walk around your house. Just like walking outside, getting on the treadmill for a half an hour per day also has health benefits. You can listen to podcasts, music or even watch a show while on the treadmill.
You can also take a walk with your dog if you have one. There are also emotional benefits to walking with your dog. Your dog helps you stay fit and gets you walking outside. A cross-sectional evidence from the US and Australia shows “the potential for dog-walking to increase the proportion of the community who engage in daily physical activity” .
Walking has a benefit for each of these five levels. By walking, you are keeping your muscles active and you are activating longevity factors in your body. And when you bring all of these together, it gives you the strength to continue with your walking project for life.
To get support on your weight loss and health journey, join us our Weight Loss Awakening Friendship Group on Facebook. You can also check out The Miracle Meal Challenge page if you’re interested to join our 10,000 Steps a Day Challenge.
1 Rettner, R. (2014, March 07). The Truth About '10,000 Steps' a Day. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/43956-walking-10000-steps-healthy.html
2 Barr, S. (2018, January 31). The truth about whether 10,000 steps a day is beneficial for your health. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/step-counting-10000-per-day-good-health-fitness-weight-loss-control-a8186851.html
3 Deskbound. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mobilitywod.com/deskbound/
4 Yuenyongchaiwat, K. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015672/
5 Bang, K., Lee, I., Kim, S., Lim, C. S., Joh, H., Park, B., & Song, M. K. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551166/
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