In Defense of Walking

It’s no secret that I like to work out.


I work out hard, and often. Plus I love it – always have.


As a kid, if my head wasn’t deep in a book, I was out with the boys running, biking, and climbing all around my suburban neighbourhood until it got dark and my mom called us to come home.

 

I’ve played (and still do!) competitive soccer since I was 9 years old. You could say movement has always been an important part of my life.

 

But aside from the 90 minute soccer games I engage in a few days a week, I must admit that due to time limitations and #adulting, the time and space I once reserved for the all-day, whole-body functional movement has been constrained to 60 minutes of strength training or bootcamp each day.

 

Now don’t get me wrong: something is better than nothing, unquestionably.


And I cherish the time each day where I get to work up a sweat and feel like a powerful, albeit sweaty version of Wonder Woman. But I’m guilty of engaging in junk food movement myself because the truth is: exercise (what I refer to as short, daily bouts of movement condensed into a 30-60 minute timeframe), like junk food, can also be a highly processed version of what our body requires from movement.  Exercise is convenient for sure, but can fall way short of the nutrients movement provides.

 

Let me explain…


We currently live in a movement-drought. Yes, even regular exercisers are essentially sedentary compared to the quantities and qualities of movements used by our ancestors. Which is why a daily bout of exercise won’t necessarily buy you a one-way ticket out of heart-disease town when you are remain sitting or lying down for the bulk of the day. Exercise in a movement drought absolutely serves a purpose, but what we are failing to recognize collectively is that we need to step (or move) it up even more. 

Listen, I get it. I’m someone who craves the endorphin high and straight up feeling of euphoria that comes from standing up after your last rep, against the protest of your trembling legs, and knowing you've conquered more than just a workout. It’s positively addictive. Maybe you can relate? So imagine my shock and utter bewilderment when my ND told me I needed to cut back on exercise and incorporate some more restorative practices like yoga and walking instead.

 

Me: Sorry, I think I misheard you.
Also me: Cut back at the gym and do more walking? Ummmmm, how about NOT GONNA HAPPEN.


While at the time I had wished she would have told me ANYTHING other than to cut down on my exercise, I couldn’t deny that my increased activity levels eerily coincided with a sudden onset of hormonal acne, trouble sleeping, night sweats, irritability and intense food cravings (to name a few). 

 

I had to get real with myself (and I’ve had to do the same with a few clients who are in the same boat) and realize that the uptick in strenuous exercise has not only led to overtraining but our cortisol levels are through the roof.  When you factor in the heightened levels of stress nationwide, it’s not surprising that the way we’re choosing to move our bodies is having devastating effects on our immune systems and hormonal health.

 

But there’s good news, I swear.


Studies show that leisure walking, especially when done in nature, has a significant impact on lowering cortisol, balancing the nervous system and making you feel more calm and rejuvenated. 

 

This study shows that exercise is not always just about calories, but that the hormonal activity generated in response to the surrounding environment has an impact. Slow, leisure walking can be done all day every single day because it is more restorative and relaxing. If part of your motivation for engaging in regular exercise is to lose weight, consider that the benefits of walking on fat loss come from its hormone effects, not its calorie burning effects (which are small at best). The benefits of walking come from it’s ability to lower the stress hormone cortisol, and from where I sit stand, we could all use a little bit less of that in our lives.

 

My take? Exercise less, move more.

 

I want to hear from you! How do you feeling about this "slow fitness" trend? Do you like walking or would you rather hit a barre class, bootcamp, gym or lace up your shoes and go for a run? If you use a FitBit, how has it helped you incorporate more movement into your day?