Benefits of Walking

Benefits of Walking in Retirement
There is no doubt of the benefits of walking, particularly weight control and cardiovascular health, I think what’s often overlooked, is the time and space walking gives one to think, I mean really think…

Fitness and staying in shape as we age

There’s a lot in the press and all-over social media about fitness and staying in shape as we age… It’s so easy when we are transitioning into retirement, to become less active and more sedentary – I’m not sure how much exercise folk realise they do just by going to work? It’s not that unusual to do 4 or 5,000 steps in a normal day, just travelling to, or walking around our workspace.

Retirement often seems idyllic – no stress, nothing to drive us out of bed in the morning, and an end to those tedious meetings and annoying customers. However, many of us find our health and well-being suffer, this isn’t always physical as typically, mental health can be negatively impacted when we lose the rhythms associated with work and move into our “third age” and retirement. As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, I’ve always been active and stayed pretty fit through adulthood, but one thing I missed throughout my working life was recreational walking. Time was always tight, and so I tended to head to the gym or the pool, rather than into the great outdoors. In my younger life, pre family and career, I did a lot of outdoor stuff, including biking, camping and long distance walking.

I always loved the outdoors and walking, particularly the sense that I’d travelled somewhere on my own two feet unaided, I do get a similar feeling touring on a bike, but it’s nothing to the sense of tired satisfaction of arriving at the top of a mountain, or a new town or village, having walked there myself…

Time to walk

Thankfully in retirement, I have found an opportunity to rekindle my love for walking and while my replacement knee limits my wanderings somewhat, the wonders of modern medicine have once again provided me with an opportunity to walk a little further than just around the supermarket! It’s easy to perceive walking as second best and inferior to other forms of exercise, but the truth is quite the contrary – low level exercise such as walking, is in many respects superior to a spin on the exercise bike, or a jog round the block or spending a sweaty half hour with Joe Wicks, particularly if the walk is longer and takes more time.

It might be stating the obvious, but recreational walking doesn’t have to involve epic adventures, mountain tops and even rural locations… I have found great joy and satisfaction in walks round my local town and while it’s not quite the same as a long peaceful walk in the country, it’s certainly better than sitting on our backsides staring at a screen.

Wellness benefits of walking

While there is no doubt of the physical benefits of walking, particularly weight control and cardiovascular health, I think what’s often overlooked, is the time and space walking gives one to think, I mean really think… Modern life is designed to fill every crevice of our existence, if it’s not interacting with colleagues, friends and family, its TV or our phones and other devices. It’s not “normal” these days to sit quietly and just think – we feel compelled to turn on the telly, shove headphones in our ears or scroll through endless posts that add little or nothing of any value to our lives.

When I head out of my front door on a walk – and I mean a proper walk, of maybe one, two, or even three hours, I’m not interested in listening to a podcast, music or any other “entertainment” for that matter – I want to be alone with my thoughts, my steps and the environment around me – I find this space provides tremendous opportunities for creativity, almost always problems which I thought were insurmountable, magically resolve themselves and I achieve great clarity and peace. I know it sounds a bit zen and wishy-washy, but I genuinely believe that walking with no distractions over a longer period, puts me in a meditative and mindful state, that I find hard to achieve elsewhere in my life.

I even sleep better!

It’s also worth remembering, we human beings thrive on regular activity and particularly low level exercise such as walking – the bodily functions and our circadian rhythms are set by light and darkness, walking gets us out into daylight and helps set these vital rhythms, particularly if we are able to do this in the morning when our bodies soak up this unique and precious light. As a consequence of my regular walking, I have found I sleep much, much better, even if the outings are only modest in distance. So don’t ignore the humble walk, be intentional, maybe give the gym a miss tomorrow, instead set aside an hour or two, lace up your walking shoes and head out of your own front door to see what lies beyond? 

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