Walking has been my one constant fitness activity and stress buster. Spinning, aerobics and CrossFit have come and gone in my life, but walking remains the equivalent of a glass of wine and square of dark chocolate to unwind and clear my mind. Working from home for nearly seven months has only increased the frequency and duration of my walks.
The physical benefits are obvious, from building muscles to increasing cardiovascular strength, but during these COVID times, walking has been most beneficial psychologically.
Walking improves your mood
Overwhelmed with deliverables, feeling anxious or blah? A good walk, like a good workout, releases endorphins which can create feelings of happiness and help reduce stress hormones. And you don’t need fancy equipment or a gym membership to go for a walk. Social contact is vital in maintaining psychological health and COVID-19 has done a number on that. If you can keep socially distanced, walking with others can give your morale an extra boost.
Walking clears your mind
When I worked in an office, I walkout outside at lunch several times a week. Sometimes, I convinced a colleague to join me and we steered our conversations away from work. I found out about cool websites and restaurants along the way. Alone, I would listen to music, call a friend or try to not think of anything. It is harder than it sounds! Getting away from four walls, breathing fresh air and seeing life move around you changes your focus. These days, I take my dog for long morning walks and up until new social-distancing guidelines were implemented in my city, I walked with neighbours a couple of evenings a week.
Walking kick-starts creative ideas
I have prepped for meetings and hashed out blog ideas; I have thought of a solution to a nagging problem and have come up with a game plan for a tricky situation while out on long walks. It turns out I am not alone. A study by Stanford University researchers determined that walking increases creativity in real time as well as shortly after. Over 80 per cent of participants were more creative walking than sitting and researchers wrote that “walking opens up the free flow of ideas …”
Walking makes business sense
According to a CNBC article, some executives from top tech companies prefer meetings on the move to stay focused and increase creativity and productivity. Jeff Weiner, executive chairman of LinkedIn; Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg are all said to prefer meetings on foot.
Experts differ on the amount of time you should spend walking to reap rewards, but between 15-20 minutes a day is the recommendation often cited. Since many of us work from home these days, that should be easier to achieve. Replacing a 30-minute commute with a 30-minute morning walk is one way to reach that goal.
Mindful walking is not power walking
Walking for wellness is not the same as power walking. The latter is a cardio workout emphasizing speed while swinging your arms in synch with your steps. Walking for wellness is done at your pace to exercise your brain as much as your body.
A square of dark chocolate may still pick-me-up and a glass of wine may be relaxing at the end of the week, but day-in and day-out, walking has lifted my spirits, spurred creative juices and boosted my mood. What will it do for you?