Walking: The Underestimated Stress Reliever with Lots of Health Benefits

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Not going to lie, working from home is a bit different than what I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer working from home but I’m not exactly travelling and staying in different cities am I lol. That said, for most people, working from home isn’t exactly a proper miracle. For some it’s difficult that work’s essentially brought home and for others it’s tough to draw the line when work stops and ends. I feel you guys. That said, any means of de-stressing is always a good idea for everyone and here I offer you one: walking. It’s free, it’s easily accessible, you don’t need to buy things to do it. It’s just that you always overlook and laugh about it.

Let’s get through the academic / formal side of it first. If you didn’t know yet that walking is a healthy thing to do, now you do and it’s scientifically-proven. Here are some articles:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/walking-your-steps-to-health

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/a-prescription-for-better-health-go-alfresco

https://www.nifs.org/blog/a-breath-of-fresh-air-the-many-health-benefits-of-being-outdoors

At a time of pandemic, it can even boost your immunity in combination with vaccines: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/04/exercise-boosts-immunity-vaccines-effective-study-glasgow-covid-coronavirus

It’s such a beneficial thing that even one of the nation that’s leading in health and wellness, Japan, has a term for it: Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing

Now that we’ve established credibility, I actually can just end it there but I actually want to talk about it, how I do it, the direct benefits I get from it, etc.

My Take

How It Started

I had this idea months before the pandemic. Earlier then, my goal was to adjust my habit and outlook about health, fitness, motion, and ‘doing’ things. That can be for sport and leisure or for necessities like grocery shopping. This was towards the end of winter season and since I won’t be able to do my weight-buster activity, I wanted to do a temporary one while I wait for futbol season.

At the same time I wanted to condition myself, to get into the habit so that eventually it’d be easier for me to convince myself to go to the gym (and stick to it).

The pandemic happened and there basically more reasons to do it. To start, there’s no more gym. Basically this was supposed to be an optional walk but now it’s kind of the “best weight loss you can do even if you wanted more“.

Next was the ‘working from home’ scenario. I realized that when you go to the office, there’s more reason for you to walk: walk to your car, to the kitchen, washroom, etc. Now, there’s no commute time, and everything’s accessible with just a few steps.

Another is that, you really want(need) to go outside, or somewhere. If you’re just indoors 24/7, you’re gonna go crazy!

What are the Benefits I Get from It?

Of course, exercise

For me, it’s a lot of things, the first and most obvious one is that you get a form of exercise off of it. Sure it’s not like squats or skipping rope but it’s definitely a good start, especially in addition to my second reason:habit forming.

Habit Forming

We’ve talked about mental/emotional habit forming like how to change your eating habits. This one is about changing your attitude towards physical fitness.

All I would suggest you to do is literally just take a walk around your own block, that’s it. Don’t think it’s too small, or too useless. Just do it. The intent is not to burn 9999 calories in that 1-block walk but rather literally just to get yo’ ass out of the couch and just start walking that’s it. Lord knows how difficult it is to get up and simply walk when you’re comfortable on the couch. Don’t even think “ooh am I going to stick with this?”. Nah, just do it once (every time) and all you should be just concerned about is just that moment.

Once you get the hang and fun of it, then you can scale it with “ooh, maybe 3 blocks this time”, or “ooh I know there’s this cool new stuff there. I’ll just take a detour and hit two birds with one stone”. Next thing you know (and this is what I did) is that you enjoy walks now that you try to find proper walking trails. Just the pace and duration alone of your work can affect the calories you burn. If you’re lucky you get trails with incline so that’s more burning for less time/distance!

De-Stress + Clarity of Mind

I had these as two separate thoughts but they’re connected and can be explained better together. Walking (or more generally, giving yourself a break) helps by extricating you out of a situation and giving you the opportunity to reboot.

For example, you had a crazy day at work (and you’re working from home btw). If you give yourself a break and just go outside for a bit. You don’t even have to walk yet, just literally go outside your house/building, it gives you the opportunity to relax your mind, possibly think (of other things not related to work. Walking helps because not only is it a stimulant physically but as you see things, the world around you, nature hopefully, it stirs your mind as well and make you think (of things not regarding work).

Walking helps because the breeze soothes, seeing other people helps (especially in this pandemic), giving you a reality check of literally “hey, these are the things that are going on around you”.

If you had a rough work day, it gives you this scheduled space to decompress and cut that shi~ and start with your life. If you don’t do or you skip this and just go on to your next house chores, this is when you hear stories of people releasing anger at someone else, or being aloof and making mistakes/getting into accidents, or having difficulty focusing/doing the next activity.

That’s the last one actually. It gives you the opportunity to clear your mind. There is value is clarity of mind in itself. You become at peace, no bullshit, and your mind is clear for the next thing. This is useful if you have a zoom call/friends hang out after, or you have to deal with your significant other, or even if you have to attend to your passion projects later that night. It’s a double whammy: it’s advantageous to clear your head before, and at the same time with the free space and time, you get to prep for the next one.

Economics

Yup, there is economics in this too. With the help of the pandemic too, I was able to change my logistics and most of the time I walk to the groceries now woo!

The benefits are pretty obvious here: I save money on gas, I emit less CO2, and I get exercise! So if there’s something you can walk to, maybe groceries, or errands you can do, that helps too!

Actually what happened here is most of the time I walk to groceries now. The only times I would drive is if I need large items: bags of rice, toilet papers, etc, which I go for seldomly.

Before, I would also try to go for a grocery run and try to shop for 3-7 days worth of food. There are two things that usually happen: a.) Either I prep for something delicious and I overeat (so I didn’t really ‘save money’ nor ‘lose weight’ on that one) because it’s delicious or b.) I shop for all sorts of things which I either don’t eat or get tired of eating so things go bad (which is a waste of food and money–I don’t like that).

Now I go to the groceries almost every other day and I usually just shop for today + maybe tomorrow’s meal as well.

“Isn’t that a lot of time and effort wasted?!”

No, not at all actually. There is no time wasted because I needed to walk/move/clear my head anyways (that’s my walk to/from). With regards to effort, that’s physical effort I needed to expend and those count as my exercise.

Honestly, just doing groceries walking counts as my exercise for most days and honestly guys, you’d be surprised, it can actually move the needle (weight scale). Do that of course with regulated eating, eating nutritious food over junk, etc.

This way, walking to the groceries checks a lot of my requirements already for something I needed to do anyways with or without the intent of relaxing/exercise/walking.

Absorbing Nature

Last but not the least is that it gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature. If it’s a good day outside, I’m sure it’s an easy sell for you. At the same time and like the Japan link I have above, immersing yourself to nature actually gives you health and mental benefits.

I have the luxury of having a beautiful trail with dense trees just beside my apartment. In it there’s actually a small water flow / river going on so not only do I get the benefits of trees, but I get the calming effect of watching/listening to flowing water. I only wish that you have access and/or you can experience the same regularly.

There is something about smelling the crisp, clean air (if you have ’em), and then there’s another smell and feeling when you enter a dense tree area (you know, it starts to smell like…~well trees). There is a nice sensation to walking on loose dirt, instead of flat, solid concrete. Also there’s less pressure to be busy, to be human, to be ‘socially-engaged’ when you’re deep in nature…

“Well What If I live in the City / There are No Nature Close by?”

Well then you’re shit out of luck 😂. Nah I’m kidding. Well, partially. It’s mostly because that’s exactly what you asked for. You’re probably in the city because you got caught into the allure of being in one. Well, cities means more concrete jungle and less trees. That’s just how it is. So it’s really just tough to question the nature of that.

But hey, I do have some tips to help for you still. If you’re really deep in density of it all (I’m thinking Asian city-level density), perhaps try to find a small park or fountain nearby, maybe in a mall area?

In North America you get something like High Park in Toronto or Central Park in NYC. Those work.

Otherwise if you have access to a small garden, or the likes, those are good too. maybe it’s a small patch of greenery that does not span blocks and blocks. That’s fine. Truth be told, this walking exercise is two parts: one is walking, the other is enjoying nature. If you can’t hit two birds with one stone like I do, then there’s definitely no harm getting them separately!

Pros and Cons

There’s actually pros and cons with doing it in the city. The pro is that, sure there are less trees but hey, there’s more people to sightsee. It helps your social skills/exposure and that side of your brain. It’s hit/miss though, because what if you’re in a shitty neighbourhood and people around you are shady, uninspiring, then it doesn’t really help does it?

The cons is that you’re surrounded with distraction. Let’s say you actually found the will to walk for an hour every day, even in the city. That’s great, but what if every time you walk you pass by and smell that sweet aroma of the taco truck, or see that big billboard for this, this, and that consumer product? It’s like basically intentionally watching YouTube Ads in full. And if you end up with tacos every day, well…😂

If there’s no easy access around that’s walking distance, give it a shot during the weekend, something that’s bike/car distance. I’m thinking big parks/trails, bay walks, lakeshores, etc. Surely you’ll find something and while you may be able to do it once a week at best, I say that’s still equally beneficial.

“Do You Do It Only When it’s Hot Outside?”

Walking is a thing that I do now almost every day; yes, even winters. Nope, not just once every two weeks during winters, but basically the same frequency as I would during summers. I’ve done so much walking then that I’ve written gear reviews about winter jackets and winter boots 😂

If you frequent my insta and you see me post vids of this trail beside my place, this is the exact same trail, but winter 😂

Wrap Up

No wrap up. Too long already for a reading time; Too tired. I want to watch Startup.

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