Walking as a weight bearing exercise is a no brainer for most of us. But in Integral Human Gait(tm) theory which Carol Montgomery and I co-created, we say that walking feeds all the systems of the body. All the systems is a pretty broad statement and includes the circulatory, digestive, skeletal, muscular, skin, and the central nervous systems.
A few years ago a client clued me in on a book called Walking the Blues Away by Thom Hartmann. She had used it in her own mental health and thought with my interest in walking, I would enjoy it. It is a great, easy read with how to tips on turning dark or obsessive thinking around using some simple tools he drew from Neuro Linguistic Programming, affirmations, and good old fashioned walking.
The ideas he put forward were not a surprise to me, though I really like his clarity and packaging and highly recommend it.
I also remember years ago reading about how Einstein, Neils Bohr and other high level thinkers used walking to unlock their creative thinking. And I find that when I am out walking, I come up with idea after idea on where to go next with my own work. It is a pleasurable exercise in creativity to walk.
This past week, the New Yorker published a great article, Why Walking Helps Us Think, by Farris Jabr quoting Henry David Thoreau: “Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”
But Jabr does more than throw us some great quotes from famous and accomplished people, he goes on to outline how it is that walking affects the brain. “The answer begins with changes to our chemistry. When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain.”
I highly recommend that you read his article. But in the event that you are a one click pony, here is my favorite bit:
“Walking at our own pace creates an unadulterated feedback loop between the rhythm of our bodies and our mental state that we cannot experience as easily when we’re jogging at the gym, steering a car, biking, or during any other kind of locomotion. When we stroll, the pace of our feet naturally vacillates with our moods and the cadence of our inner speech; at the same time, we can actively change the pace of our thoughts by deliberately walking more briskly or by slowing down.
Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre.”
This is one of the reasons, I am so passionate about helping people improve the quality of their gait and the easy rhythms of it. Truly what a blessing to be able to walk with ease. The freedom it affords the mind, and the food it provides for the entire body! Using the Feldenkrais Method(R), Bones for Life(R) and Integral Human Gait(tm) theory, I have helped many people get back on the road to well-being. I have used this same approach for myself. So, if walking isn’t pleasurable for you, don’t despair. Find someone who specializes in making gait accessible and enjoyable to help you get back on track. If walking is easy enough for you, but hard to fit into your schedule, think of it as a work related priority. You will produce, think and create better. Just get out and do it.
I would love to hear how walking has impacted your life. Share in comments below and I will read and respond. But for now, I am, of course, off for a walk.