The first physical activity I resumed after my baby’s birth was walking. Oh how I missed being able to walk without waddling in pain, which had become the norm during my last trimester due to massive fluid accumulation in my legs. The joy of walking pain-free again has been compounded by the absence of, for the first time since I knew I was pregnant, shortness of breath on any and all hills! We have been taking long walks every day (weather permitting) during my maternity leave. Other folks run by, logging the miles and most likely hurrying to get done with their workouts. Most of the time, they carry a look of suffering on their faces. But we are not on a schedule.
Walking at least 30 minutes most days has been linked to all sorts of health benefits, but I’ve also noticed other advantages to making this regular practice a priority in my life:
It’s meditative. Are you one of those people (like I am!) who understands the benefits of meditation but has a hard time incorporating it into your daily activities? Try taking a quiet walk to have a meditative experience that also gives you other benefits. It’s win-win. This applies more to solo walks, which can be a nice change from walking with a partner. The key is to clear your mind by dismissing thoughts that emerge (without judgement) and focus on noticing your surroundings, your breathing, or possibly a mantra. Check out this site for a beautiful guide to walking meditation written by Thich Nhat Hanh.
It connects you with your community. I love walking in my neighborhood and noticing the diversity of homes and front yard landscapes. It’s a fun practice to walk a different route or take a different street each time so that you have the opportunity to notice new things each time. When we do these types of walks, we also make an effort to smile and wave at other walkers and neighbors. I also enjoy the exposure to nature when we walk on trails or in mountains and canyons.
It’s a good foundation for an exercise program. Walking is a great first step in an exercise regimen for those who have not been previously exercising, who are overweight, etc., but it is also beneficial for more athletic people. It promotes recovery and natural movement patterns (especially when walking on uneven surfaces such as trails) with very little negative effect on other training performed during the week. Low intensity walking can help to promote fat burning when combined with other intense activities such as strength training in already trained individuals.
I started walking as much as I could tolerate the day after I came home from the hospital. While I admit that a big component of this was an impressive amount of diuresis, I had lost all of my pregnancy weight (50 lbs!) by 2-3 weeks postpartum with walking as my only form of exercise. However, the lasting effect is that I have managed to maintain that weight loss and even begin some good body recomposition postpartum with continued long walks and a minimal kettlebell lifting program. And walking is a way to move that doesn’t add stress to my (already stressed and sleep deprived) system.
It facilitates brainstorming/creativity. When we walk together, my husband and I have the best and most productive conversations. We talk about home improvement projects, finances, trips we want to take, philosophies on parenting… I could go on. I always come up with great ideas, including subjects to write about on this blog, during our walking sessions.
What about you? Do you walk regularly? Share the benefits you’ve encountered here!