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Move at a regular and fairly slow pace by lifting and setting down each foot in turn, never having both feet off the ground at one.
I have fond memories as a youngster of walking, specifically, hiking! Growing up with a father who taught high school, our family took long car trips across the country in the summers, seeing the sights, especially our nation’s landmarks and national parks. We did these wonderful trips by tent camping, meaning we would drive from destination to destination (following our AAA TripTik, remember them? The Google Maps of the 70s ), pitching our tent and setting up our campsite, then immediately wandering off to investigate the area. With six family members, we weren’t able to take our bikes, so we used our legs to hike all over the campgrounds and parks we visited. These are some of the best memories of my childhood!
At the age of about 13 our family moved to Florida and the suburbs. To get anywhere I had to get a ride in a car or ride my bike. Once I turned 15 I bought a motorcycle and walking nearly ceased! From a fitness perspective, I still exercised by playing sports, but the simple act of walking began to taper significantly as I gained access to motorized transportation.
Then I got my first “real” job at the end of my senior year of high school–game room attendant at Chuck E. Cheese’s! Now walking was a major part of this gig since my entire shift consisted of monitoring (walking) around the enormous game room making sure the coin mechanisms worked and cleaning up. I’m sure if the FitBit One tracker had existed in 1982, it would have shown my clocking many, many miles. In college I got a job waiting tables and I remember being on my feet during my entire shift–on Friday/Saturday nights this would often be from 4pm until well after midnight! Again, I’m sure I walked countless miles a night and remember being completely exhausted at the end of those long shifts. During that time, as a full time college student and working as a waiter, I had no time for exercise, yet I remember being physically fit. Could all that walking have been a factor?
Once I graduated from college and started my career as a programmer/analyst, I spent most of my day sitting in a chair in front of a computer screen–walking, again, faded from my life. I did many other forms of exercise–weight lifting, basketball, tennis, etc.–but not walking. At this time, the mid-eighties, running seemed to be the fitness craze, and I’ve never really enjoyed running. In fact, I can remember feeling guilty about my lack of running and thinking I really should be out there putting in the miles and pounding the pavement in order to be fit and healthy. Based on some of the research I’ve read, I may have accidentally done my body a huge favor by avoiding “chronic cardio” in the form of running!
If you Google for articles comparing the health benefits of walking verses running, there are thousands of articles and posts and, like most “arguments”, there seems to be evidence on both sides as to which form of exercise might be superior. For me, there is no one “right” answer and, since we all all different, what might be best for me certainly doesn’t mean that works for everyone else. Tim Ferriss, author of the The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman, said, in the context of dieting, something along the lines that adopting a “perfect” diet that is nearly impossible to sustain is much less effective than adopting an effective (not perfect) diet that the dieter can maintain over time. I think this applies to me and running verses walking–since I dislike distance running I have never been able to maintain any type of consistent running regime. On the flip side, if a person loves to run and it works for them, they should run!
I rekindled my love of walking a few years ago on family trips to the beach. I would get up early and just walk, enjoying the splendor provided by the white sands and the Gulf of Mexico. My favorite hike is just under eight miles and I’ve listened to many audio books on these walks! When I began focusing on the Primal/Paleo lifestyle, I began listening to health and fitness related podcasts and eventually stumbled on a podcast on blogging which gave me the idea for this blog.
One piece of technology has pushed me to increase my walking on a daily basis: my FitBit One tracker. As I’v written before, consistency is key for me, and having goals and tracking my progress against those goals is highly motivating. Right out of the box, my tracker had a default goal of 10,000 steps per day, and I really try to exceed that goal as many days as possible. And this doesn’t mean that I have to set aside time in my day to “go for a walk.” Instead, I make it a point to get out of my chair and move during the endless conference calls as each one of those steps gets me closer to my goal. When I fly through Atlanta I now walk between terminals instead of taking the train. If you are like me and a type-A, competitive, goal oriented individual, adding a tracker has been a huge enabler for increasing my day-to-day walking.
I’m happy that I’ve rediscovered walking as it certainly benefits my health, but it also allows me an opportunity to broaden my horizons through audio books and podcasts or just to experience to the waves lapping against the beach helping me to decompress from my stressful life. Do you use walking as part of your fitness routine? Please let me know your thoughts and, as always…
Be smart in the kitchen and a beast in the gym!