Norma Walton discusses ways to make your life more lighthearted and recommends reintroducing activities you loved as a child into your life now.
I remember reading that Michele Obama woke up really early to ensure she fit a workout in every day. When her first daughter was four months old, that meant 4:30 am. That is a little crazy-early for me. Nonetheless, the concept appealed to me that if you fit your workout in first thing in the morning then it is done for the rest of the day.
I love a morning walk. The weather is fresh; it is quiet, still and peaceful; you get your exercise out of the way for the day; and you feel more invigorated with energy for the remainder of the day. It definitely takes extra effort to get up early to add a walk into your morning regime but for me, the benefits far outweigh that one challenge. I am now used to the early rise and like being up before the rest of my crew. I have found that my morning walk brings the following health benefits:
We’ll start here because it is the first thing you’ll notice following your walk. Exercising outdoors is an excellent way to increase your energy. The fresh air and morning quiet gives you a boost. Although I typically walk for between 30 and 60 minutes each morning, it takes just 20 minutes of brisk walking to enjoy the newfound vitality. Instead of reaching for that cup of coffee in the morning with your eyes half closed, may I suggest you instead lace up your shoes and head out to take in some fresh air and get your circulation pumping.
I tend to run happy but notice that even generally cranky people benefit from exercise. So if you live with someone who tends to wake up angry, drag him with you on your morning walk. Mood improvements are a wonderful benefit of morning walks, which can create an overall feeling of well-being. Pumping a few endorphins through your body first thing can improve your mood for the entire day. Your daily constitutional can also improve self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety, shake off fatigue, and even ease symptoms of depression. All of these positive feelings can be achieved with a 20 minute walk five mornings a week.
Get Exercise Out of the Way
If you’re like a lot of people, the thought of exercise might be a real turn off. However, a morning walk can provide enough exercise for the day. It is one of the best forms of physical activity and I find it far more pleasant than trying to work out at home or in a gym. If you find yourself trying to avoid exercise, walking feels more like a treat than the drudgery of exercising. Even a slower paced walk can do wonders for your health.. Walk at whatever pace you feel comfortable. After your walk, you will feel satisfaction in the knowledge that you’re done for the day.
Weight Loss and Avoiding Weight Gain
At my age, the objective is not to gain any more weight. A daily walk helps me maintain my weight. For some, a daily walk will not only permit you to maintain your weight but will allow you to shed a few excess pounds. Weight loss typically makes you look better, move easier, and improve overall health. A brisk morning walk lasting 30 minutes burns approximately 150 calories per walk. Walking five days a week means you are burning 750 calories a week from walking. That makes a difference…that is a pound of weight lost each month you walk.
For Your Health
Walking will improve your health. A morning walk can help you better manage your health, prevent some health problems, and make it easier to live with chronic health challenges. Because you are exercising, you are receiving an immune system boost, coursing endorphins through your body, promoting weight maintenance or weight loss, and reducing your risk for heart disease. If you suffer from diabetes, walking can also help you better manage glucose levels. There is even some research suggesting that walking daily will reduce your risk of contracting some forms of cancer and will increase your lifespan. What’s not to like?
Improve Muscle Strength
As we age, we lose muscle and gain fat. Our bodies change in ways we typically don’t appreciate. A nice brisk walk can help strengthen leg muscles. Going uphill or taking the stairs can further increase the impact of walking on your leg muscles and also increase your leg strength. Even a slight incline gets your heart and muscles pumping. A walk is a pleasant way to keep leg muscles toned. To get your arm muscles into the act, consider carrying small weights with you or bringing Nordic poles along on your walk. I often walk to the grocery store in the morning then walk home laden with groceries in my back pack and in my arms. Although sometimes I feel like a pack mule, I have no doubt it is good for me.
For me, being quiet in nature is an excellent stress buster. If you live in a neighbourhood with green space, you can clear your head by drinking in that natural beauty each morning. Even in an urban space, you can improve mental clarity with a morning walk but the more nature you can incorporate into your morning walk, the more you will benefit. As we age, our brains become foggier. A morning walk helps keep that youthful cognitive function that keeps your mind sharp. If you do creative work, a morning walk can open up your creativity and remove blocks. You can even experience improved problem-solving skills. I always find solutions to my problems come to me after a good night’s sleep and a morning walk.
A Good Night’s Sleep
When you are up early for your walk, you tend to tire earlier at night. When my head hits the pillow, it is easy for me to fall asleep. In my view, even though you are walking in the morning, that activity actually helps you sleep better at night. Also, if you suffer from mild insomnia, a morning walk is better than an evening walk because you don’t want your body moving into an energy-producing mode just before bed. Also, with a morning kick start, your metabolism will work better throughout the day. Once your morning walk is a habit, you start to create a nice cycle providing yourself with much needed energy in the morning and throughout the day with improved sleep at night, allowing you to wake ready for your next walk the next morning.
Toronto has been hot the past few days. Walking in the middle of the day would be uncomfortable. Walking in the morning allows you to take advantage of the coolest part of the day. I always drink a big glass of water before heading out for my walk, and another one upon my return. Others bring water with them.
Motion is Lotion
Three members of my household suffer from back pain. Although laying down may seem the obvious fix, they find it is actually the worst thing you can do. Staying up and staying active will help work out the back problem faster than lying prone and still. If you suffer from chronic pain of any kind, it is hard to get into the spirit of the motion-is-lotion movement. However, I believe it is true and can help you relieve your pain. You can start out with slower, shorter walks and avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. Instead, take your time and remember that every step is one towards improved health and a reduction in muscle stiffness and joint pain. Walking actually helps protect your joints, as it promotes production of lubrication while helping to strengthen joint muscles. Once again, this is very important as you age, as it can help manage issues such as arthritis. As a low-impact exercise, it is the safest way to avoid increasing pain, and instead helps reduce swelling and stiffness.
I still think Michelle Obama is a little crazy being up that early. But I agree wholeheartedly with her opinion that morning is the best time to exercise. Hopefully the above benefits have encouraged you to give a morning walk a try if you don’t already enjoy one. If so, then lace it up, take it slow to start, and always stay hydrated.
Norma Walton walks most mornings. She described the physical benefits to her of walking along with the mental, emotional and spiritual benefits she derives.