Why walking is the new running

A recent news report claimed two thirds of Britons spend at least 20 hours each day sitting or lying down. For many this won’t come as a surprise, particularly not if you’re a stressed city worker use to shoehorning in lunchtime spin or circuits sessions to counteract your otherwise sedentary lifestyle. But what few perhaps consider where keeping active is concerned is that the options are not confined to either doing nothing or doing frantic short bursts of exercise. There is, in fact, a third way; and that way is walking.

If you read yesterday’s (somewhat’ self-indulgent) blog you’ll be aware I’m currently suffering from the Lurgy (aka the common cold). The worst thing about being poorly, to my mind, is the inability to exercise, and it was as I was mulling this over yesterday afternoon – feeling grumpy after having to cancel my attendance at Wednesday night running club – that it hit me. I may not be well enough to run, but what’s to stop me walking?

And so, instead of taking public transport to the charity networking event I was attending near Waterloo, I walked. It took half an hour and it was lovely. The fresh air cleared my head and I saw a vast array of interesting sights and sounds. I even witnessed four seasons in one day, as the song goes, with alternate sunshine, showers and blustery winds.

When I arrived at the event one of the girls expressed surprise when I said I’d walked. Despite living in London she claimed never to walk anywhere and always to take the tube. My initial reaction to this comment was a feeling of mild disdain-until it dawned on me that I was exactly the same. Whenever I have to get from A to B in London I check the tube map first, with the over ground train line a close second and the bus route a distant third. It rarely occurs to me to leave more time for my journey and walk instead. Why should it? As a Londoner my time is scarce enough.

But then I remembered a date I went on a couple of years ago with a boy who suggested meeting at the South Bank. When I arrived, rather than go for a drink he suggested we go for a walk. At first I found this suggestion somewhat odd – everyone knows a bit of alcohol in the system helps calm first date nerves – but as we walked I began to relax and enjoy the experience. We walked for a long time, sharing observations and chatting about our favourite things. It was both a charming and eye opening experience (and yes, we did have a drink – or three – at the end of the epic walk). The relationship never developed beyond that date, and my pledge to walk more also fell by the wayside – until, that is, yesterday.

Whilst vigorous cardiovascular exercise is if course important – and I say this with the authority of someone who will be doing their second half marathon in September – exercise doesn’t always have to be vigorous. In fact, as I discovered yesterday, it’s far better to walk if you’re feeling under the weather than to do nothing at all.

Often neglected in favour of its more popular sibling, running, walking is a more gentle form of exercise that’s good for the soul. Not only does it provide an opportunity to explore the place in which you live and observe the people in it (people watching has long been a favourite pastime of mine – a trait I get from my mum), it also offers space for quiet self-reflection and – for the more creative types amongst us – a prime opportunity for inspiration to strike.

In short, walking rocks – so why not get off the bus or tube a stop early on your way home this evening and give it a try?

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