Walking is a powerful, versatile, and beautiful movement

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Walking is a powerful, versatile, and beautiful movement

[00:00:00] Hello, this is Pam Strand. I'm your podcast host, and I'd like to welcome you to the Longevity Gym. This podcast, as many of you know, is dedicated to learning how to live longer, stronger, and better. One way to do that is To walk. And that's what I'd like to talk about today.

I believe walking is one of the most powerful and versatile movements that we are capable of performing, and it brings so many benefits to our lives.

Before we take a dive into those benefits, let's look first at what walking is. Walking is what we know as a complex movement activity, and it's dependent upon several things occurring in the body all at the same time. It's dependent upon our central nervous system's ability to coordinate movement, the swinging of our arms [00:01:00] and legs in a coordinated fashion, and making sure they are moving in a way and working together to get us going to where we want to go.

And then we have our perceptual systems that receive and comprehend sensory information. For example, information that keeps us upright and prevents us from tripping over things. Our peripheral nervous system helps coordinate all the contractions of all the muscles needed to walk.

Then we have our muscular strength and stability. And walking also depends upon our bones and our joints, which build the foundation for our movement. And then walking is also dependent upon the body's ability to produce energy and to deliver it where it is needed.

There's a lot going on when we walk, and it's really a marvel of all the things that are going on within the body [00:02:00] that are coordinated to work in sync with one another in order for us to walk.

Yet most of us walk probably without giving it much thought. And when there are issues in walking like joint pain, soft tissue issues, nerve issues, it can feel really discouraging and diminishing of our physical capacity. Next time you walk, even for a short distance, pay attention.
to what your body is doing to allow you to move from point A to point B. Maybe you can savor it for a moment and really appreciate how incredible it really is.

Part of the beauty of walking, at least for me, is that it's so versatile. You can walk slowly or you can walk quickly. [00:03:00] You can match how much and how far and how fast you walk to your fitness levels.
So a beginner or someone that's just starting out with fitness can go a short distance. Someone who is an experienced walker can go a long distance. Either way, you are experiencing its benefits. You can walk outdoors on many different types of terrain. You can walk indoors on a track, for example. You can walk on a treadmill.
I live in a multi level apartment complex and many of my neighbors walk the hallways. They'll walk down one hallway on one floor, take the stairs to the next floor, walk the other direction. You can even walk or step in place to get some of its benefits.

When you realize the benefits of walking, you may get more encouraged or more inspired [00:04:00] to work on sustaining this movement as your body gets older, and there are many benefits to walking regularly and benefits to work towards sustaining and developing this movement now and well into the future.

Walking is linked to greater longevity. I think it's a pretty well known fact. that our independence later in life is tied to a large extent to how well we can walk. And many studies suggest those who walk briskly, and that's three to four miles per hour, add 15 to 20 healthy years to their lives. Other studies have learned that walking for middle aged adults, walking for at least 7, 000 steps a day, reduces the likelihood of early death by 50 to [00:05:00] 70%.

As one longevity expert said, there is no pill, no supplement that can do that for us.

Walking is also linked to many health benefits, such as strengthening the heart, lowering blood pressure, helping us to manage cholesterol by decreasing bad cholesterol and improving good cholesterol.

Walking boosts our metabolism, which is especially important for those of us in our 60s, as that's when our metabolism takes a hit from the aging process.

Walking helps us manage blood sugar levels and gives a boost to our immune system. The fact that walking extends longevity and improves our health makes it an important movement to have in our repertoire, but the power and the versatility of walking goes beyond these two aspects.

[00:06:00] Walking also improves our cognitive performance and enhances our brain function. When we walk at a steady pace, we are improving the neuroplasticity of our brain. Walking increases blood flow to the brain and supports the growth of neural connections. Regular walking has been linked to improved learning and memory.

Studies have also linked walking to increased creativity and problem solving. There are some theories that rhythmic movements like walking provide a physical foundation or a physical basis for abstract thinking and problem solving. And that's really important to realize that how we move our body affects how we use our brain and our mind.

Many prolific thinkers and scientists, inventors, and creators have been known to take regular walks as part of their routine. [00:07:00] These include Beethoven, Charles Dickens, Albert Einstein, Virginia Woolf, Henry David Thoreau, and in more modern times, Stephen Jobs. These individuals found or believed that walking helped clear their minds, stimulate their creativity and problem solving, and enhance their overall well being.

And that's another powerful and beautiful aspect about walking. Science and evidence shows that walking enhances our mental well being. Walking, like other forms of rhythmic movement, can stimulate the release of chemicals that contribute to having a positive mood. And also have been known to lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Those chemicals are endorphins, serotonin, [00:08:00] and dopamine.

Walking has been shown to reduce stress for it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which then promotes relaxation and a lowering of levels of cortisol, the stress hormone in our bodies. A light, rhythmic walk, maybe 20, no more than 30 minutes in the evening is a wonderful way to recover from the demands of your day and to downshift your nervous system and prepare your body for a good night of sleep.

And what I think is maybe the most magical thing about walking is that it can teach us to slow down and be present. Walking can be a mindful and meditative practice. For example, as we walk, we can tune into the sensations of walking in our body. For example, paying attention [00:09:00] to how it feels when your foot touches the ground and then pushes off, noticing how your breath is connected with your steps.

This is a really powerful mindfulness practice, and it's a way to connect the mind and body. And that connection is so important to our overall health. And if you take your walk outside, you can connect to the sights, sounds, and sensations of nature. In Japan, they call this practice forest bathing. And science shows that this regular practice of being out in nature to just sense and experience the sights and sounds and smells and touches of Mother Nature, improves our health mentally and physically.

Walking with my dog has definitely taught me to slow down. Johnny Rocket, that's my dog's name, gets up with the [00:10:00] sun. It used to get me so frustrated because I wanted to sleep longer, but nope, he needed to get up, have his breakfast, and get outside. So I decided to try to make lemonade out of lemons and make this early morning outing into a form of brisk walking or exercise.

That failed miserably. Because Johnny has his own pace. So I decided to go at Johnny Pace. And while he investigates what seems to be every blade of grass as we go, I open my attention to the sound of the birds chirping, how the plants and trees change in the season, What the sky looks like, what the sun feels like if it's out, and I'm also paying attention to the wind or the temperature of the air and how that feels in my body.

I also take time to [00:11:00] turn my face towards the sun, helping my body set its clock and letting it know it's time to wake up.

Walking is a powerful and versatile movement. Walking is also a very special movement. Think about how we celebrate a child's first steps and how they are so proud of themselves when they can finally walk across the room by themselves and walk right into your waiting arms.

Walking is a milestone of early childhood development, but it doesn't need to end there.

I would encourage all of us to create a special place or a special time for walking in our adult lives too, and celebrate it, and savor it.

I hope this episode of the Longevity Gym has inspired and [00:12:00] encouraged you to walk, even if you already are a regular walker. Maybe there were some tips or ideas here on how you could even enhance the process and the practice further.

We can walk to add healthy years to our lives. We can walk to improve our health, our cognitive function, and our mental well being. And we can walk to learn to slow down, be present, and savor what Mother Nature provides to us.

Let's walk and live longer, stronger, and better.

Thank you for tuning in. If you'd like to stay in touch, please sign up for my newsletter. Depending upon how you are listening to this episode, there's either a link in the show notes or a form at the bottom of the page to sign up. for the newsletter.

I look forward to being in touch and I will see you next [00:13:00] time.

Walking is a powerful, versatile, and beautiful movement
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