Have you heard that you can simply walk to improve your health? Walking is one of the best exercises, and the most underrated. Why holistic walking? When we walk, we are engaging all of our bodies, all of ourselves.
Since exercise produces endorphins and other mood-regulating brain chemicals, we can’t help but feel better. There are many mental health benefits of exercise. Mood lifting brain chemicals are released when we exercise, helping to improve our outlook. Those endorphins help relieve stress and pain. Most walkers, runners, and bikers exchange a friendly hello as we pass each other. These cheerful greetings are also lifting our mood.
There are numerous health benefits to walking at least 20 minutes each day. Internet searches will reveal many benefits including weight loss, increased energy, stronger muscles, stronger bones, improved cardiovascular fitness, a stronger immune system and much more! That’s already a long list of benefits for a good daily walk!
Walking in nature forges a connection to nature, a connection to spirit. Look at the sky. Is it clear or cloudy or something in between? Notice the fresh air, how it smells. That can change with the seasons. New flowers, fresh-cut grass, a recent rain, a blanket of snow. Each of these leaves a different scent in the air.
Notice the feel of the air. It can be warm or cold, wet or dry. Depending on your location, the seasons can make a big difference in the temperature. Notice the trees. Their look changes with the season. Is it a new green of spring, the total green coverage of summer, the vibrant colors of fall, or the muted colors of winter?
Listen to the birds, the songs they sing. Is it early morning when they are singing more? Is there more of one birdsong than another? Notice the insects and small animals in the area. Insects can be singing loudly, or staying quiet. A rustling sound in the tree may be the only way you know a squirrel or rabbit was nearby. Or you may see them quietly scurrying across your path.
Let all of this feed your spirit.
The mind-body-spirit connection is part of the flow of walking. One of the best things about doing this daily is that we continue to improve holistically.
Walking is a different type of meditation. Rather than clearing my mind, I let the thoughts flow in and out, then let them go. When a thought gets stuck or goes round and round, then it’s clearly time to let it go. This is only letting thought come in, and watching it go out. Then a new thought comes in and goes out. It becomes part of the rhythm of the walk. There is a rhythm of the walk, with our legs and arms moving. Let thoughts flow the same way in and out, without focusing on any one particular thought.
Another way to meditate while walking is to focus on the walk itself. Focus on the movement. Focus on breathing. Focus on your body. After doing this a few times it becomes easier and easier to continue.
How to Start a Holistic Walking Program
Start where you are
It’s not always possible to start taking a long daily walk. Some might need to start by walking to the end of the driveway and back. Maybe a walk around the block is a good start. Remember this will be a daily walk, so keep that in mind when starting out.
Once a daily routine is started, you should start to feel changes in body, mind, and spirit. Gradually increasing the length of the walk will increase the results.
Pay attention to your surroundings
While some like to listen to music or books while walking, I prefer being aware of everything around me. Focus on the sounds of the birds and the insects. Be wholly in your surroundings.
Walk outdoors when possible
Weather can present challenges with walking outdoors, but good hats and gloves, and layering will help with the cold. If it is not possible to walk outside, most malls allow walkers in before opening hours. Some high schools open their indoor track to walkers on some days as well.
Movement provides many health benefits. Most recommendations are for taking a brisk 20 – 60 minute walk 5 or 6 days per week.