Just before Christmas 2018, I decided to sign out of my expensive gym at the time and have a gym break. The arrival of Xmas and its several social commitments, a coming trip abroad, plus having some family/friends visits in my future calendar convinced me to avoid wasting money and give up on my gym routine for a while.
I was worried, however, that the lack of exercise and the arrival of the festive season will have direct consequences over my body, health and weight. I assumed I had to accept some of the potential extra kilos as “Xmas must”, but I still wanted to limit the weight gain as much as possible, so I had a think about my alternatives to paying in exchange to gym classes.
The usual “plan B” came to my mind, running. But we were in December and I know myself enough to accept that going for a run after work in the cold and dark London streets is not my cup of tea. Option C was required, and I found it by taking up walking!
Yes, I decided to wrap myself up with cosy clothes and pick a different train station to go to work other than the nearest to my house. For 2 or 3 days a week, I replaced my previous “gym days” with 20 to 30 minute walks to and back from work.
I originally did to keep myself active for healthy and weight-balance purposes but the benefits I quickly discovered were much further than simple weight control.
Eight months on since that December, these are the main benefits that walking has brought into my life.
Keeping active and weight under control
The first advantage is the obvious one and the one I firstly took up walking as my new form of “exercise”. I hope that my walking at least 10,000 steps a day I will help shave some calories, those calories that I was previously burning in the gym.
I was surprised by how little my weight changed once I stopped the gym and started walking, not to mention that it didn’t really change at all (okay, until after Christmas!).
Staying active on a daily basis has proven to be almost as effective as going to the gym when it comes to weight balance (calories in and calories out). This might not be the same for everyone, but in my case it was – maybe because my gym classes were not that vigorous in the first place, maybe because I did try to look after what I ate, but the fact is that the weight increase I expected post quitting the gym didn’t arrive and I was very pleased about it.
I must say however, that despite helping me staying active and “slim”, walking doesn’t not really made me to actually build muscle (surprise, surprise!?), so over the months I got quite floppy and that is why I chose to go back to the gym eventually – although I am still walking 20 minutes as part of my daily commute, mainly for the reasons below.
Saving time (and stress)
Before walking, I used to take a train which was 5 minutes from my house, then go to a bigger busier station, run across four platforms in a hope to make it to another 20 min train, which finally leave me in work. Every second counted in the rat race.
If all the timings went as expected I could make it to work on time (just about), but the standard reality was was quite different: The first train was often delayed, which made me miss my second train, which made me have to wait 10 frustrated minutes knowing that no matter how on time I was, my fate was on the London Overground Service’s hands.
Anyway, all that just to explain how stressful my mornings started. I was quite used to it though, every morning was a lottery and I accepted it. It wasn’t until I started walking to that furthest station (and taking a direct train to work, rather than changing) that I realised how much more calmer my mornings started.
I suddenly had more power over my morning commute, how amazing! If I left the house on time I could make sure I was at the station at the right time to be on the right train and on route to work without delays. Door to door, my commuting time is now quicker if I do walking plus one train, as opposed to delayed train one, plus 10 min wait, plus train two.
Easy to keep
Obviously, walking is free and, since we always going to places, it is easy to fit in every day. This makes it very versatile, which is one of my favourite things about it.
I started walking to go to work, but seeing all the advantages, I then started to walk more during the weekends too, rather than taking the closest tube by default.
Walking is easy and can be done pretty much everywhere, so why not making the most of it?
Time to yourself
Another unexpected benefit of walking was that it allowed me to have more time to myself. Since walking is a slower way of transporting, that give us some valuable time to think, look at the surroundings, listening to a podcast, or catching up with a friend over the phone. Options are limitless and having time to ourselves is always a great way of improving our quality of life. Walking forces us to do so, which is something to be thankful for 🙂
By walking around our neighbourhood, town or city, we are able to discover new places that were not in our radar before. Walking is an amazing way to explore our surroundings and get to know our community better.
Since the beginning of my walking routine I’ve discovered so many beautiful streets, cute shops, lovely flowers, amazing restaurant offers, lively parks and funny street names, it’s made my community life much more richer. Not to mention the endearing old man who always wishes me good morning while he’s waiting for the bus.
Soaking up the sunlight
Spending time outdoors in the natural light (even if it is not sunny), is beneficial for our health. Not only will it help us store up our Vitamin D levels, but it has been also proven that sunlight does improve our body clock and helps us sleep better at night.
Our ancestors used to spend much more time than us outdoors, hunting, gathering fruits or working in the fields, so it is only on recent years that we have replaced the sunlight with artificial lighting, with all the confusion that this brings to our inner body clock.
A form of meditation
Finally, I think that walking can be a form of meditation. It allows us to forget about ourselves a bit, be more present in the now and mindful of our environment – a beautiful sunset or a blooming flower are common presents in my daily walks.
Walking meditation is in fact a common way of meditating, especially for those who don’t love staying still. Same as running helps people to quiet the mind and mentally relax, walking provides us with a much needed mental break from our often busy minds.