Fitness at 40+
Why Walking is Your Best Post-Pandemic Exercise
Get back into the world as a healthier, more balanced you — one step at a time
It’s been a year. Actually, it’s been more than a year. Too many Zoom calls, too much time alone, too much ice cream.
As we begin to step tentatively back into our lives, or perhaps into some new variation of our lives, we have the opportunity to establish new priorities, and to create the habits and routines we need to support them.
Looking for the best way to step back into the world, reconnect with others, and get your body moving? Get walking. Here’s why a regular walking practice should be at the top of your post-pandemic exercise list.
You Could Probably Use the Mood Boost
Though you probably don’t need the statistics to tell you, according to a March 2021 report by the American Psychological Association, nearly half of Americans reported increases in stress and anxiety over the past year, with essential workers and those with children learning remotely being some of the hardest hit.
Global pandemics are very stressful.
Extensive research and boatloads of anecdotal evidence shows that walking is a powerful mood booster. Several studies have indicated that, for many people, exercise is as effective as antidepressant medication.
How does walking impact your mood? Researchers aren’t entirely sure, but they believe it is a combination of the way walking lowers cortisol, reduces stress and anxiety, increases happiness hormones, improves brain health, positively impacts self-esteem, and delivers a dose of the restorative effect of time spent in nature. Walking delivers the mood boost you need to help launch you back into the world.
It’s Time to Reconnect . . . But That’s Not Easy
“I don’t know when I’ll feel comfortable, really comfortable, being around other people,” my mother said recently. She’s not alone. Many of us feel apprehensive about sharing the social experiences that we have always taken for granted. But we are social beings and we need time with others. Walking together provides an excellent way to reconnect in a way that feels less risky than, say, sitting side-by-side in a coffee shop.
Too Much Tech, Not Enough Nature
We have all spent far too much time in front of screens this year. Not only did we endure a seemingly endless barrage of work Zoom calls, we’ve attended Zoom birthday parties, Zoom brunches, and Zoom book club meetings. Heck, I even attended two Zoom Bat Mitzvahs. And it’s not just video conferences. Our time scrolling social media and binge-watching Netflix is up, too. We need to step away, literally and figuratively. It’s time to retrain our brains to think more deeply. Walking, especially in nature, does that.
In fact, in a study reported by the Association for Psychological Science, a walk in nature was shown to have a significant impact on memory and attention, even when compared with a walk in a more urban setting. The authors concluded that “being around nature replenishes our store of directed attention” and the researchers concluded that “nature may have restorative effects on our mental abilities.”
Boosts Your Immune System
Over the past year, we’ve all become more attuned to the intricacies of our immune system. We’ve wondered why some people get severe COVID while others seem to suffer little more than what feels like a common cold. And, while there are many factors at play, a recent Kaiser Permanente study shows that being active materially reduces one’s risk of hospitalization and death from COVID. And what is one of the best ways to get the exercise you need to build your immune system? Yup, you guessed it: Walking.
And Those Pandemic Pounds?
All that baking, stress-eating, and time spent sitting in front of our computers has come at a cost to our weight and well-being. In fact, according to two studies recently reported by UCLA Health, the “quarantine 15” we have been joking about for months for many is closer to a quarantine 30.
We have to get moving if we want to shed that extra weight. Once again, walking can help. Study after study after study shows that walking can help you lose weight. Some keys to effectiveness include walking at a brisk pace, striving for several brisk walks during the course of the day, and being consistent. Of course, to be most effective at helping you shed the quarantine weight, combine that walking routine with improved nutrition — perhaps it’s time to retire the sourdough starter once and for all.
Rebuild Your Exercise Routine
Remember that Barre class you attended regularly before the pandemic? Or the boxing class, or indoor rowing class? Perhaps you tried some Zoom classes, or maybe you are one of those rare birds who managed to maintain her fitness regimen from the comfort of your own basement. But chances are, you didn’t, as research continues to mount that the pandemic materially disrupted, and in most cases reduced, the amount of exercise people get.
It is time to get your body moving again, and before you jump right back into the high-intensity exercise you were doing before, you need to remind your body that it is time to get moving. Walking helps to lubricate your joints and remind your body that it is built to move. It is the perfect first step toward your return to regular activity.
Time To Get Walking
The country is opening up. So close up your computer, put down your phone, open the front door, and get back out there.