Fitness for All Walks of Life

Don’t underestimate walking

Walking often goes underestimated as an effective form of exercise.

You might be surprised to hear how many benefits walking actually has on your health, overall. Harvard Medical School conducted a beautiful study around walking and obesity-promoting genes. Researchers looked at the genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body weight. They determined that in the subjects who walked briskly for around one hour per day, the efficacy of those genes was cut in half. 

So I interviewed my dad, who I know walks religiously, to hear what someone I knew had to say on the subject. He jokes as if he’s giving his Oscars speech, “First, I’d like to thank my dog… for holding me accountable. She makes sure I get at least five miles in.” He goes on to elaborate in a more serious manner, “Walking is how I physically and mentally prepare for the day. It’s a good time for me to get in touch with my breathing, because if I don’t I’ll go the whole day feeling short of breath.” Although I wasn’t expecting to hear that from him, I was pleased to hear that his motivations were intrinsic in nature and improved not only his physical but mental health as well. 

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults with chronic conditions should do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity weekly, if able. This would include walks that improve blood flow and have been proven to lower blood pressure. 

Now, mental exercise time.

For a moment, picture the most iconic outdoor activity in Benicia. What comes to mind? That’s right, walking. Perhaps rivaled by dining leisurely at an outdoor patio. We have such a wonderful downtown heartbeat it’s hard to beat a nice walk down First. Walking, although elementary, has incredible benefits to chronic illness and health in general. Now consider this, each block is a new adventure in our downtown. A walk can begin with an intent and that intent can inevitably change at a moment’s notice. Have you ever tried to visit all the memorial benches on first street? Or stopped in some of the great town staples like Avant Garden or the picnic tables on F Street near the water? A nice walk would lead to checking off some of these boxes.

In my practice, I feel obligated to pay attention to the trends in the world of fitness. One of my mentors used to say, “fitness trends come and go, but being fit never goes out of style.” As a practitioner of a trend popularized in the early ‘90s – Spinning, which I have found to be one of my favorite ways to exercise — there’s some respect I give to trends. They can serve as a gateway to introduce new exercisers to the world of fitness by appealing to a niche interest. And the reigning champion of gateway fitness modalities that is often overlooked is walking and if it appeals to you, I’ll see you out there; I’ll be up and down first street with a cute Aussie-Husky mix.