Tyrrell: An ode to walking


Columnist Eileen Tyrrell encourages people to get out and go for a walk during this time of social isolation. She writes about the benefits that getting outside and walking can give you.

Eileen Tyrrell

The past 11 days I have tried futilely to wake up before 11 a.m. No success. What’s the point? I have nowhere to be. Time has become meaningless. With Illinois under a ‘Shelter in Place’ order, there is nowhere I can go besides the occasional run to get groceries or gas. It almost feels illegal to step outside my house — but stepping outside my house and walking around for a bit is actually probably the best thing I can do in this period of social isolation.

Like most students at Iowa State, I’m used to getting in a couple miles each day walking to and from my classes. Now that all of my classes take place on my couch (or my bed, or the basement couch, or… you get the picture) I actually find myself missing that daily blast of subzero windchill or the 20 minute walk to my 8 a.m. in complete darkness. Luckily, the Midwest is having a bit of a mild spring, and all it takes is throwing on a light jacket and shoes to break up my busy day of lounging about with a brisk walk. 

I would highly recommend my fellow students to do the same. According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking is “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” There are many benefits to walking daily, both obvious and surprising. For example, researchers at the University of Exeter have found that even a 15 minute daily walk can prevent cravings for sugary foods and help curb your sweet tooth. Research has also linked a daily walk to reduction in joint pain, counteracting weight-promoting genes, and boosting immune function — all benefits that may be especially important during quarantine. 

And besides the myriad physical benefits that walking provides, it also can immensely boost mental health when the rest of your day is consumed by apocalyptic news reports, social isolation and purposelessness. A walk can provide some structure to your day, improve your sleep quality, self-perception and self-esteem and reduce stress. It can even reduce your risk of becoming depressed by up to 30 percent.

Best of all, walking can even be a social activity (if you keep an appropriate distance from the person you’re walking with). Meeting up with a neighbor or friend to go for a stroll, six feet apart, is the perfect way to spice up your monotonous day, catch up on all of the exciting things you have been doing at home in your PJs and get exercise while doing it. 

I would encourage all of my fellow Cyclones who are stuck at home to go for a walk today. All the incredible benefits aside, let’s be honest — what else do you have to do?