Thursday, July 7, 2011 Post By: Grayne Wetzky

Just walk

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. It also seems like everyone feels that they should get more of it, but somehow it gets lost in the daily shuffle of things. The discrepancy between how much we feel we should exercise and how much we actually do it leads to national guilt and bruised self esteem. Predictably, one of the most popular new years resolutions every year is to exercise more and lose weight.

Our obsession with exercise is big business. No one can claim that our lack of movement is caused by a lack of options. Health clubs, gyms, personal trainers, sports stores all abound. In fact, it seems like an unused gym membership is just as common as a broken new years resolution to get healthier. Our collective bad conscious is gold for the fitness industry.

The question then becomes, if we are so interested in getting exercise that we are throwing huge amounts of money at the fitness industry and at the same time know that exercise is supremely beneficial, why don't we do it? To me, the answer seems pretty clear: Exercise is a pain and a chore. We have developed a common mindset that says working out has to be hard and strenuous. Or as the fitness industry sells it: "No Pain, No Gain".

With this kind of attitude, no wonder getting to the gym gets difficult. So here is the good news: You don't need to go to the gym to get fit, and you don't need to be in pain to get healthy. In fact, in my opinion the very best exercise you can get is completely free and available to anyone anywhere. Just walk.
Walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise. The fact that it takes minimal effort and can be done without any form of equipment needed should be enough to make it the peoples go to form of exercise. Walking can be combined with a wide variety of other activities so we can actually get exercise while taking care of other obligations. With some common sense walking has a very low risk of injuries and it is our natural mode of movement as humans.

For some reason people seem to think that walking is not effective exercise. Perhaps it's because it comes so natural to us we don't see it as exercise at all, or maybe it's because it doesn't fit into the no pain no gain mantra. In the real world however, slow paced movement in the form of walking is an incredibly useful weapon in the fight for health and fitness.

In my personal experience, I started seeing real positive results when I increased the amount of time I spent walking. You often hear recommendation to walk for 30 minutes three times a week. While this certainly s better than not moving at all I think it is way too little. I aim for walking two hours a day or more, at least five days a week. And before you say you don't have time to walk this much, consider all the options you have to get in some walking during the day.

I take public transportation to work. To be able to do that I get about two hours of walking for free. The time it takes me walking from bus stations and trains to get from home to work and back adds up very quickly. Not everyone will be able or willing to take public transportation to work, but there are still tons of opportunity to get your walking sessions in.

I am sure every one is aware of the usual advice for walking more: Park further away from the store, take the stairs in stead of the escalator and so on. There's nothing wrong with these tips and trying to get some walking in during your daily routine, but it's not really going to make enough difference either. I can easily walk from the furtherest point of the grocery store parking lot to the door in less than two minutes. That is a lot of trips to the store if I want to get my two hours of walking time in the parking lot.

I suggest that instead of trying to sneak in mini walks through out your day, take a more radical approach. Instead of parking far away from the grocery store, try walking to the store to do your purchases. This sounds like a near impossibility to many I am sure, but it is never the less the norm in many other countries. Walking to the store and back takes more time, but the time you spend walking is time you won't have to spend in the gym. Money saved and time maximized by taking care of two things at once.

Another side effect of doing your grocery shopping by foot is that it puts a very tangible limit on how much you can buy. You will probably find that having to plan out how much you can actually carry home will force you to re-examine your shopping habits. If you are like most people, there's also a huge potential for saving money here. A conscious approach to grocery shopping can be very budget friendly.

My other suggestion for getting ample time on your feet is particularly well suited for people who do creative work. It's as simple as taking a long walk in the morning. And I mean first thing in the morning. I do this myself when I walk to the bus every day. The greatest benefit of walking early is that it's a great way to wake up, you might even find you don't need that cup of coffee to get going.

A more subtle but just as important effect is that physical activity stimulates creative thinking. I find that walking is especially potent for this purpose. Anyone can walk on autopilot which gives the mind free space to roam. If you are in a business where you create things or have to do a lot of problem solving, this can be extremely helpful. Just get out and walk and let your mind roam, carry a voice recorder or notebook to take down the torrent of excellent ideas you will come up with. Now you have combined your daily exercise routine with your brain storming sessions, saving time and probably increased the quality of your output.

These are just two of the ways that you can combine every day tasks with your exerciser . They are the two methods that I have found works best for me. I am sure you will have other ideas that will work for your lifestyle, if so I would love to hear about them.  One thing I can promise is that if you get yourself outside and walking regularly you will not regret it.

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