Walk Yourself Happy
‘Solvitur Ambulando’ is a Latin phrase attributed to St Augustine, meaning ‘It is solved by walking’. Whilst this is not comprehensive, it certainly helps many of us to reorganise, reprioritise and gain perspective – quite literally moving us forward.
For some a means of transport and for others necessity, for some a pleasurable experience and others an inconvenience, most of us walk between a few hundred and many thousands of steps a day. We know that walking is broadly ‘good for us’ but what are its benefits physically, emotionally and spiritually?
Physically walking at any speed is great for the body, it’s what our muscles, ligaments and tendons were designed to do. Even this simple movement at a moderate level can prevent aches and pains. If you can walk faster, getting a little breathless and warm there are additional health benefits too, lowering blood pressure, improving fitness and reducing your risk of cardiac problems, to name a few.
It’s recommended that, if we are physically able, we cover 8-10,000 steps a day, the equivalent of 4-6 miles. It may sound a lot, but running around chasing a toddler, a couple of intentional short strolls and at midday I’m clocking over 6,000 steps. For those with time constraints there are likely as many health benefits from doing three 10-minute walks at a brisk pace. So, if you sit at a desk all day and find the prospect of trying to reach 10,000 steps incredibly daunting, going for a quick walk at lunchtime and after work may be your solution.
Emotionally, walking, particularly outside in ‘green spaces’ is beneficial for our mental health and wellbeing, dragging us away from sedentary lifestyles and giving us chance to think and ponder. It releases endorphins which improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety, help us to feel fitter and improve your body image and confidence. For those that feel isolated, joining a walking group can be an easy way to strike up conversation, it’s often easier to ‘walk and talk’ than sit in a room together.
Spiritually, walking often gives space for conversation with God, friends and family without trying to multitask. Stepping away – literally – from the demands of our daily routines to walk, reflect and pray reminds us of God’s creation (including us and the bodies he gives us!), encouraging us to focus on the eternal rather than the temporary things in life. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:6-7, says that: “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” I suspect he wasn’t just being symbolic, taking a stroll can give us real spiritual awakening. Walking can also sometimes give us unexpected inspiration, when we are less distracted it allows God to speak to us through the smallest things; a determined daisy pushing through the concrete, a hedgerow ripe with good fruit or the crash of the sea on a cliff.
Here’s what a few people from the Fitfish Community say about discovering the benefits of walking in their lives:
“Walking was a huge effort following emergency surgery to prevent paralysis from the waist down, but with encouragement and support I progressed from crutches to walking independently. Incentivised by views of snowy mountains I took my first few steps on snow with ski poles helping my balance and enabling me to join my new-found ski friends for lunch. To my delight walking with poles helped me to walk further with greater confidence and less pain. On my return I continued to make slow and steady progress, one foot in front of the other! Two years down the line from the surgery I’ve just done my first beginners running session…everyone has to start somewhere!“ Gillian, a Fitfish Guest
“The benefits of walking were clear to me from a young age, walking to and from school a couple of times a day, then it was a necessity to ensure I got lunch! Now I walk about 10k steps a day with my work, it helps my well-being and helps me feels positive about life. It’s so important for me I like to encourage others in the benefits of being active so I volunteer at events that support this.” Andy, part of our Motivationfish community on Facebook
“Having been a big exercise fan for most of my life, a time of poor health prevented me from doing much that I would normally enjoy, but I could still walk. I shifted my focus and realised the benefits were still to be found in something less intense. I could talk to my friend whilst walking (and enjoying a drink in a café after!), it helped me to de-stress, letting the adrenaline dissipate and it is so convenient, I can just step out the front door, no prior planning required! I’ve also discovered some local volunteer-led walks so there is a sociable element too, its win-win!“ Anon, a Fitfish guest
Top Walking Tips
- If you find walking ‘boring’ why not take a friend, listen to music or a podcast or make a phone call as you walk?
- Don’t think you have to do all of your walking in one go, it can be split throughout your day or week, 5 minutes here and there really add up.
- Try and walk slightly faster, even just for a few minutes at a time for additional health benefits.
- Use it as a spiritual activity and prayer walk, worship or listen to the bible or messages.
- Invest in a pedometer or activity monitor, they can really encourage you to increase your movement.
It’s not easy to take the time to go on a simple walk that produces no material gains. But knowing what you now do, challenge yourself. Set a small goal—say, ten minutes of walking every other day. Increase that amount until you’re satisfied, and reap the benefits!