Walking is an activity most people overlook as a worthwhile exercise, yet it is one of the easiest and most effective; it’s also an unheard-of method of unlocking your inner genius and boosting your creativity.
When the subject of improving one’s fitness comes up, taking cardio classes or joining a gym usually get mentioned first; and often, they are one of the same. Gyms offer many fitness classes-options such as aerobics, strength training, cycling, treadmills, elliptical trainers, martial arts, and in well-ventilated spaces.
However, there are significant drawbacks:
- Monthly fees
Monthly dues, annual fees, and start-up costs are typical. Then, add in the cost of fitness classes which may be extra – if they’re not booked up. Count on $30 to $50+ monthly.
This may sound all well and fine until one considers that a great many Canadians are under severe debt pressure. Another (unnecessary) expense may subtract from priority responsibilities like debt repayment, food, or lodging.
But how to stay in shape? Walk for cardio and work your muscles with resistance bands which are just as, or more effective, than machines and barbells. They’re way cheaper, too. Check out 33 Resistance Band Exercises You Can Do Literally Anywhere. Where to find? Amazon, for one.
- Cost of Driving to the Gym
Not usually considered, but fuel economy is worse when an engine is cold. Short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much gas than a multipurpose trip covering same distance. This past October 31 in a Toronto, Canada suburb, gas was $1.15/liter or $5.44 per gallon (4.54 liters) Source: GasBuddy.com. These figures add to the cost of gym membership on a day-to-day basis.
- Present Level of Fitness
If you’ve been living a mostly inactive life-in this Age of the Screen-your level of fitness is apt to be quite low: muscle flexibility lacking, posture poor, overweight, and taxing stair climbs that leave you huffing-and-puffing. Combined, or even on their own, these factors increase the likelihood of getting injured.
Sitting: The New Cancer?
The habit that most contributes to ‘being out of shape’ is sitting. According to a Mayo Clinic study, people who sat for more than 8 hours a day, with no physical activity, had risk factors of dying similar to obesity and smoking; specifically, habitual long-term sitting leads to the formation of several health conditions that make up Metabolic Syndrome:
- Increased blood pressure
- High blood sugar (due to not being absorbed by muscles during any type of exercise)
- Excess body fat around the waist, and
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) which leads to chronic illnesses that account for 43% of all deaths in Canada. And 17% of health care costs.
Primary risk groups:
- 40% of people over 65 have it, because they’re sitting longer than 8 hours a day
- 18-49 year olds are also showing high levels of obesity, low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol), and hyper (high levels of) triglycerides (fats stored in your blood) – from too many pastries and sweet rolls. ‘Could be, they’re sitting around a lot watching their screen of choice
The treatment to reverse these conditions is the opposite of what caused them: “a healthy diet and movement, even leisurely movement. Any physical activity helps maintain muscle tone, your ability to move and your mental well-being, especially as you age. To begin with, you’ll burn more calories which might lead to weight loss and increased energy.” (Source: Mayo Clinic) We shall see in the paragraphs to follow how walking fulfills all of these.
Benefits of Walking: Part I
- Walking is free, and you may walk as often as you wish
- There’s no need to drive anywhere
- No special clothing or outfits are required
- Any soft-soled pair of shoes will do, and
- You can begin in any type of physical condition (Ok, there are exceptions – so check with your doctor)
But how much walking?
A Mayo Clinic analysis of data from more than 1 million people found that 60-75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day countered the effects of too much sitting.
But you won’t start off walking an hour+ a day; you build up to it. Depending on your physical condition, you may wish to set a modest goal on Day #1. Maybe walk to the end of your street. After completing that first challenge, congratulate yourself and set a slightly more ambitious objective for Day #2 – and so on. Take it easy when you begin: there’s no rush. The most important factor is consistency: aim to walk daily.
Benefits of Walking: Part II
Positive Physical Changes
- 1-5 minutes: your body releases energy-producing changes which fires you up for a walk. Your heart rate increases to 70-100 bpm, muscles warming up, blood flow boosted and fats and carbs begin being used for energy
- 6-10 minutes: 6 calories burned/minute, cardio system (heart & lungs) increase capacity and blood pressure lowers
- 11-20 minutes of continuous walking: your body temperature rises and 7 calories are burned each minute
- 21 – 45 minutes, your body’s natural happiness hormones, called endorphins, are released, you’re burning more fat, tension is reduced and insulin (hormone that regulates blood sugar) levels drop
- 45 – 60 minutes: blood flows boosted, more calories burned (how many?), and your body is being oxygenated – you feel great!
All the while, toxins are being eliminated through your skin’s pores through perspiration; your leg muscles are being stretched without you having to; and your digestion system works better due to movement, allowing for maximum absorption of nutrients.
And, for those interested in walking to lose weight, check out this chart. Source:
Benefits of Walking: Part III
As you stroll, you’ll begin to notice things you’ve likely overlooked before: neighborhood details like eye catching gardens, architectural features of homes and buildings, interesting flowers, different types of birds and their distinctive calls, and so on
While strolling in a forest, I marveled at the effect of sunlight peeking through the overhanging trees. I was so struck by the beauty that I stood there for several minutes before taking this photo.
A 15-minute walk away, I discovered the biggest oak tree I’ve even seen. I stood there for minutes, looking up, fascinated by the breadth and expanse of its gargantuan branches. Etched in stone nearby was a history of the tree telling readers that it was over 100 years old. Definite photo opp.
To begin monitoring your total steps, distance traveled, and calories burned, it’s best to get a pedometer. Several are available as apps on your mobile phone or you can buy one and attach it to your belt or article of clothing.
Soon, your body and mind will demand that you walk, and not only to get exercise. You’ll soon find that walking has become part of your daily life.
Stanford study: walking improves creativity
Have a creative project but stuck for ideas? Walking is the answer, says a Stanford University (U.S.) study. Research findings found that walking boosts both creative inspiration.
Experiments by Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in educational psychology, and Daniel Schwartz, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education found that walking boosts creative inspiration by an average of 60%, compared to sitting.
Oppezzo and Schwartz had people think up new ideas while sitting at a desk or walking on a treadmill at their own comfortable pace. Their study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, showed that people did better while walking than sitting.
Walking benefited creative brainstorming (where multiple ideas are generated – called Divergent thinking); however, it didn’t have a positive effect on focused thinking – when a single correct answer is required, and creativity is not (Convergent thinking) – like math.
The walking or sitting sessions used to measure creativity lasted anywhere from 5 to 16 minutes, depending on the tasks being tested. More good news: creative juices continued to flow even when a person sat back down shortly after a walk.
What Type of Walking?
For tasks requiring creative thought, a leisurely, random, self-generated walk works best. Whereas, a walk to the store for an identified item, following a straight line route, won’t allow to generate ideas. Why not?
One idea Taiwanese researchers Chun-Yu Kuo and Yei-Yu Yeh proposed in their Frontiers in Psychology article, Sensorimotor-Conceptual Integration in Free Walking Enhances Divergent Thinking, was that an integration of the conceptual aspect of generating the free form patterns and the sensor motor experience of moving is needed to benefit divergent thinking. You may refer to their
But what if it’s winter and walking outside is treacherous?
Says Oppezzo, “Walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room still had strong results, which surprised me.” A person walking indoors – on a treadmill in a room facing a blank wall – or walking outdoors in the fresh air produced twice as many creative responses, compared to a person sitting down.
Does the intensity of an exercise matter?
Nothing definitive here, but researchers concluded that the short-term benefits of a walk may be limited to lower intensity, casual strolls.
“We’re not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo,” Oppezzo said. “But it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity.”
This intriguing study lines up with my long-time custom of going for walks with client interview notes. While I often end up at a Starbucks, my routes are random and unplanned. Upon my arrival, and after a few sips of my Grande Bold, I set to work jotting down themes and ideas that occur to me. I’ve always discovered great ideas – and so can you.