The ideal amount of walking for wellness, according to many health organisations, is a total of 30 minutes a day on most, if not all days of the week.
For anyone new to walking, this may seem a lot and for seasoned walkers, this may seem very little.
The goal should be to take advantage of every single walking opportunity you have, and to walk with consistency and purpose. If you don’t have time for a full 30-minute walk on a particular day, there is no need to worry. Dividing the 30 minutes into three 10-minute sessions will bring just as many health benefits.
I have a friend, John Dooley, who is over 80 years . John has a daily routine where he walks for 15 minutes, first thing in the morning, at noon, late afternoon and again in the evening. “It may seem to some like a boring daily ritual, but walking with purpose and gratitude for 15 minutes, four times a day helps me to keep both mind and body in tune,” he said. I look forward to each 15-minute session and walking with purpose is something I plan to do every day.”
In recent weeks I have been dipping back into a favourite book – In Praise of Walkingby Shane O’Mara. I always find Shane’s book a stimulating read – a bedside companion with many positive messages.
Shane O’Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research at Trinity College. He is Principal Investigator in, and was Director of the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, one of Europe’s leading centres for neuroscience. Shane loves to walk whenever and wherever he can, with long urban walks in any city a particular favourite.
Shane’s book, with the sub-title The new science of how we walk and why it’s good for us – is now a regular dip- into read. It’s a book of only eight chapters, but a lot of walking wisdom is imparted within its 218 pages. It’s a little bit heavy on science in some parts, but that is balanced by some beautiful lyrical prose that flows like a good walk.
In his closing chapter, Shane waxes lyrically about the benefits of regular walking that we can sometimes take for granted. Shane writes:
We know how all of our senses are sharpened by walking, freeing our hands for gesture, for tool use, for carrying food and children, our feet rhythmically moving, swinging through the air, stabilising against the ground, gaining purchase, and onwards we move again. The commonplace wonder is that we do this largely automatically.
We know that walking improves our mood, and more than you think it does. Walking might also be a kind of a behavioural inoculant against depression, as well as against the slow, malign changes that mould your personality for the worse because you are sedentary. And walking also brings with it marvellous problem-solving powers. Your creative impulses fostered by walking will help knock the problems of life over.
Walking enhances every aspect of our social, psychological and neural functioning. It is the simple, life enhancing, health building prescription we all need , one we should take in regular doses, large and small, at a good pace, day in, day out, in nature and our towns and cities. We need to make walking a natural , habitual part of our everyday lives. Pound the pavements; get the wind on your face; let the light of day and street lamps of night dance on your eyes; feel the rain on your face; sense the ground beneath your feet; hear the sounds; talk – if only to yourself; relax into the rhythm of walking and let your mind wander, deliberate, contemplative ; journey into your past, delve into your possible future ; or think of nothing at all. It is our future too: for walking will do you all the good that you know it does.
A few tips to keep your walking fresh:
Pick up the Pace
Picking up your pace one you get fit is one of the best ways to enhance the benefits of walking. A good, strong purposeful pace should see you averaging 15-16 minutes per mile.
Set A Goal
It’s good to have walking goals – even if it’s only the number of steps you record on your walk each day. There are always new places to explore and new walking routes to take.
Keep a Diary or Journal
Try keeping a record of your daily walks; where you walked, how you felt, what you saw.
Walk with Friends
Join a local Walking Group or encourage family, friends or neighbours to join you for some of your walks.
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