“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of wellbeing and walk away from illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” – Soren Kierkegaard
30-minute walks are part of my wellness routine, and I try to walk 4-5 times a week. I began this walking practice for two reasons: first, because I have a teacher who told me walking everyday will help connect me to myself and to spirit, and second I needed an activity to help introduce some light cardio into my exercise plan. Walking helps increase my NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) activity. NEAT also includes the energy we use to cook, clean, grocery shop etc – all the things that are not typical “exercise” that our body does throughout the day. While exercise is important, increasing our NEAT activity levels has an even greater benefit for our wellness; if you can build more movement into your daily life it helps to integrate activity into your way of being. For me, that’s looked like morning walks, cooking, and chasing after kiddos.
In addition to supporting my fitness and weight loss goals, I’ve learned that walking calms our minds, even from a neuroscientific perspective. Andrew Huberman talks about how when we walk, our eyes move in specific side to side patterns. These movements lower activation in the fear centers of our brain (specifically the amygdala). We are literally calmed by walking. I find it fascinating that neuroscience is showing the mechanism by which everything feels more manageable on a walk.
A synonym for walking is ‘”take the air,” and I love how walking connects us with the world around us. My walk gets me outside, breathing fresh air, admiring the light in the trees, listening to birds. And I am grateful. The Japanese created the concept of “Forest Bathing,” which means taking in nature with all of your senses. This type of attention and presence outside has been shown to have multiple benefits for your wellbeing; we are, after all, matter and it does our bodies and souls well to be outside remembering we belong.
My time walking is a time I use for spiritual reflection. There is a small labyrinth in the park by my house, and I will walk the labyrinth, using it as a spiritual device to hold space for whatever questions are on my mind and heart.
In addition to connecting us with nature and calming our bodies, walking during specific times has added benefits. Getting 10-30 minutes of morning light supports our circadian rhythm (sleep wake cycle) by helping make our bodies aware that it is morning and easing us into alertness. Additionally, 30 minutes of evening light watching as the sun sinks lower on the horizon tells our body to begin to shift towards rest. The calibration of circadian rhythm has profound effects on your sleep pattern and sleep health, helping you to fall asleep and have more quality sleep. It also helps with brain fog and daytime sleepiness. I tend to go on walks in the morning because it helps me ease into the work day understanding that I did something to take care of my body, mind, and soul.
Walking is a simple thing that has beautiful effects for this human experience. For me, it is one way I show myself that I am here to be a good steward, to practice skilled mastery, and to devote exquisite care.