Neuendorf: Keep walking for wellness


Jake Miller/ Iowa State Daily

Kate Holland, junior in kinesiology and health, walks the track at the Lied Recreation Athletic Center to stay in shape.

Zachary Neuendorf

Doctors are constantly advising us to walk at least 30 minutes a day. They suggest this simple exercise builds the foundation on which a healthy lifestyle can be laid, but many patients take this commandment of well-being for granted.

Chances are that while reading this you are sitting or will sit in the near future, then continue to sit for the majority of the day — whether it is in a car, at a desk or on a couch. What you may not realize is that this excessive couch potato lifestyle can be extremely detrimental to your health.

With sitting, it is not what you are doing, but instead what you are not doing that is slowly killing you. The activity of physical inactivity raises your risk for heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. The very moment you let your rear rest, you put yourself in harm’s way, for your calorie-burning rate drops to one calorie per minute and all electric activity within your muscles slows down.

It is not impossible to thwart these consequences — or at least delay them. Through simple activities like standing up once an hour, a person can begin a pattern against the effects of prolonged sitting. Ideally, one would take it a step further by setting aside a time every day to go for a brisk, 30 minute walk. A half hour can seem like a lofty commitment when our schedules are already filled to the brim, but the magic of this 30 minutes is how it can be spliced up to produce the same results.

While sitting at your desk, get up to get something to drink instead of having the beverage at an arm’s reach. Right there is a minute. Moreover, instead of having a texting conversation with your friend just around the block, take five minutes to walk and talk to them face-to-face. All of the minutes from these short jaunts will add up, and with little effort, you will reach a total time of 30 minutes. However, the most effective way to go about these walks is not in a periodic fashion, but in a sustained style that requires a level of endurance.

The time in between classes or activities is often filled with buses and cars due to the flexibility they allow and the little use of human energy needed, but this transition between locations is a perfect opportunity for us to stand up and walk. If time and impatience is an issue, then walk a little faster, and once you reach your destination by foot, you may feel a new sense of accomplishment.

The physical attributions of these walks can add up to create life-altering benefits, such as reducing risk for heart disease and reducing risk of colon and breast cancer. Walking can add years to your life.

If the rewards of good physical welfare doesn’t sway the chair-dwellers of the world, then maybe the improvement of one’s mental welfare can. Regular walking improves quality of sleep, and the release of natural pain-killing endorphins, which in some cases, work faster than anti-depressants to lift one’s mood.

Also, when your brain feels like it has been pushed to its limits, go outside and be mobile, as fresh air leads to fresh thinking. Sporadic walking while working can actually increase productivity, because it gives the mind time to rest and reflect.

The most polarizing characteristic of walking is how “boring” it can be. People will argue it takes a long time, it requires work and not much happens on foot. As a result, many will resort to plugging their headphones in and letting their music distract them from the “nothingness” of nature, which is a decent alternative, as long as it keeps you active. But drowning yourself in the music and leaving the world outside high and dry, robs you of the dozens of gifts Mother Nature is just begging to give you. The songs of the birds or the percussive drip-drop of the rain prove that when fully embraced and appreciated, nature (and walking) is anything but boring.

The earth will thank you if you choose foot over machine, thus lowering your carbon footprint and increasing your love for all it has to offer. Your mind will thank you with clarity, and your body will thank you with energy.

In short, when you take a walk, everyone wins.