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Cartoon: Take a Walk

Walking Is the Best Exercise Ever

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

I've been a walker all my life. When I was five, I walked about 20 km (12.4 miles) to school every day (at least it seemed like that; Google maps informs me it was actually about one km). These days, I go for a walk of about one hour nearly every day. It gets me away from this desk, where I spend too much time crouched over a computer writing things like this, it is a blast of fresh air and it is the time when I do my best thinking. Indeed, if I am puzzling over a difficult problem or looking for ideas, my natural response is to go for a walk. Ideas nearly always come.

As it happens, this walking thing is one of my better habits. A growing body of research demonstrates walking is probably the best thing you can do for health, exercise and creativity.

Walking Boosts Creativity

Researchers at Stanford University found that walking boosts creative thinking both during a walk and for a time afterwards. Better still, they found that environment was not a factor. Whether walking indoors or out, a walk is a great way to think creatively. So, if you need ideas, go for a walk. If you've got a problem and Google is not giving you a good enough solution, go for a walk. If you cannot think at your desk, go for a walk. And be sure to bring a notebook with you so you can jot down your ideas. There is nothing worse than having a great idea during a walk, only to forget about it when you get back to your desk.

Walking Is Great Exercise

The UK Department of Health and Human Services claims that regular walking could prevent 37,000 deaths per year (link leads to PDF document) and slash the risk of coming down with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer and even Alzheimer's.

Walking is also one of the most effective exercises you can do for weight loss simply because it is a gentle exercise. Indeed, many people do not even think of it as an exercise. The problem with strenuous exercise is that it often leaves the exerciser feeling hungry afterwards and, to make matters worse, the exerciser feels that after doing all that strenuous exercise he can reward himself with a naughty sweet.  However, the naughty sweet often contains more calories than the exercise burned off. The result for many people is that exercise leads to weight gain!

Walking, because it is not strenuous and does not really even feel like exercise, is far less likely to leave you hungry.

Walking Meetings

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Steve Jobs are both known for leading walking meetings and you can lead them too. After all, you and your colleagues probably spend way too much time sitting at desks, crouching over a computer. A walking meeting is a great way to get a little exercise, open up thinking and get some fresh air.

Of course walking meetings need not be restricted to business. If you've got family matters to discuss, why not go for a walk together? If you need to talk about something with a friend or partner, why not go for a walk together? If you and your partner are having issues, go for a walk and talk about those issues.

Getting Started

From a health perspective, most experts recommend 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Now, before you say: "I haven't got time for that," stop and think. Walking is not only good for your health. It is productive. I actually make a walk a part of my working day. I bring a notebook with me and mull over issues that need creative thinking. You can do that too. You can also have walking meetings at work, with your partner and with your family. Single? Invite your next date for a weekend afternoon walk.

And you could almost certainly spend less time on-line and watching television and devote that time to walking.

If you are not used to walking or getting much of any exercise and even a 30 minute walk seems like too much, Dr. I-Min Lee of Harvard University recommends taking three 10 minute walks a day initially.

Are You Still Reading This?

Are you still reading this? If so, put it down now and go for a walk -- it will be even better for you than this article has been!

Comments below | Send feedback directly to Jeffrey



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