Boost the Benefits of Your Walk
Walking doesn’t always feel like exercise; you probably won’t work up a sweat or be sore the next morning. But walking is still a very beneficial form of physical activity that can improve your health and wellbeing in a number of ways. Besides helping with weight management, walking can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve digestion, and a reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
But there are ways you can boost the benefits of walking even more.
With a few simple practices, you can upgrade your walk so that you are not only meeting your weekly physical activity goals, but managing stress levels and improving your strength and dexterity as well. Whether you’re zipping through the hallways at work, on a lunch break, or taking a stroll around the neighborhood before breakfast, try adding a few of the practices below to get more out of your walk.
This Monday, set the intention to “spice up” your daily walk with different strength-building, mindfulness, and breathing techniques that can be adapted to each individual’s comfort and ability level.
Mindfulness (5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Method)
When walking, use your five senses to focus on the moment as you move through your environment. Also known as the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method, this technique can help reduce stress and keep you calm. First, acknowledge five things that you can see around you. Next, think of four things that you can touch around you (hair, hands, elbows, walls, desk). Third, listen for three things that you hear around you. Next, acknowledge two things you can smell. And finally, find or visualize one thing you can taste. For example, when walking outside, look at the different trees, plants, flowers, people, or cars; think of touching the gravel, grass, branches, or your hair; listen to the birds or the wind or the cars; smell the dew or freshly cut lawn; and visualize eating that sandwich from your favorite café. At the end of the process, you will feel focused and renewed.
To improve your shoulder strength and range of motion, do some light arm circles as you walk. With straight arms, slowly circle your arms in both directions (ten forward, ten back). Be sure to keep your core engaged, chest open, and shoulders down. Inhale as you reach up and exhale as you lower your arms, working to initiate the movement from your back. Just mind your surroundings when engaging in the practice to avoid injuring yourself or others.
Incorporating deep breathing while you walk can help calm the body and mind. One breathing technique you can do is square breathing. It’s pretty simple: Walk 100 steps and pause, then inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and hold for a count of four.
Heel-toe walking is a great technique to help improve balance and stability. To do the movement, walk for ten steps on your heels only with your toes raised off the ground, then return to normal walking for ten steps. Finish by switching to walking on your toes for ten steps. Repeat three times.
Quickening the speed of your walk is a great, low-impact form of physical activity. Once you are a little warmed up, try quickening your pace for a count of 30 seconds. Return to your normal walking pace and repeat as desired.
By adding different elements to your walk, you can work towards your physical activity goals while generating energy and focus for the rest of the day ahead.