I imagine my friends either get tired of this or just laugh at me, but pretty much any time I talk to any of my friends, I ask them if they would like to go for a walk. I like walking more than my dog does. Once I was on a walk with my dog and she gave up walking and sat down, not to be moved. It took forever to get back home, since she’s not much for being carried, and then I wanted to go back out to get as much of a walk as I wanted.
Why do I love walking so much? Well, it’s good for you. I want to share in this post all the ways going for a walk is good for you. The most obvious way is that it is often easier to connect with God in nature. That may not be true for everyone, but it is true for me. I find the outdoors to be beautiful. There is a park in my neighborhood that none of my neighbors seem to care about, so I have it pretty much all to myself. It barely qualifies as an actual park. Basically, there is a small area where the city could have built a road, but didn’t. This left some extra undeveloped land. They chopped down some of the trees and mow the lawn there, but otherwise the city ignores it as much as the neighborhood does. I walk to that park even in the winter sometimes and sit and pray. During the summer, there are so many trees on all sides of the meadow that there is basically green in every direction. I love green.
Why else do I walk? I walk for the exercise. Toward the end of high school, I started gaining a lot of weight due to the medications I take for my mental illness. This was very hard on my self esteem, but I knew I could do something about it with exercise. It helped. I’m still not at the weight I would like to be at, but I’m not huge either. I give walking the credit for that. I struggle to control my eating because I don’t like cooking and because my medications cause me to crave food even when I’m not hungry. But nothing stops me from walking.
There are more reasons for walking. Exercise is actually an antidepressant. In fact there have been studies that show it is as effective as taking an antidepressant drug. So if you’re feeling very depressed and want to avoid meds, try walking every day. Or, perhaps you do take medications and you still feel down. Walk as much as you can! You may not need an increase in meds. I know it’s a lot easier said than done to start moving when very depressed, but once you actually start, it gets way easier.
What else is good about walking? If you walk with friends, it’s a great time for conversation. I’m the sort of person who loves a good conversation. That’s all I really need when I’m with friends. Going for a walk leaves me with time to talk with my friends. I often talk about things I love such as church or books or video games. This is a lot of fun. In addition, conversation is likely to be more positive because as already mentioned, we’re getting an antidepressant effect.
So how should you walk? Try to walk at a good clip. I’ve read that there are three speeds of walking to look for. One is slow enough that you can talk or sing. The next step up, you can talk but you cannot sing. At full speed of walking you can’t talk either. Often the best way to walk is to go fast enough that you cannot sing, but you can talk. Another strategy I heard is that you want to have your heart rate elevated for at least 20 minutes a day. If you can, 30 minutes a day is better. Check this link for information on how to find a proper elevated heart rate. You want to exercise 5 days a week if you can, so you do get some days off. Also, As much as I love walking, I don’t exercise enough as it is. I’m still working on improving on it.
“But walking can be boring!” So go with a friend. Start a walking group, or better yet, check the internet and see if there already is a walking group in your area. You can meet some friends that way. Even if you have no one to walk with, some time alone with your thoughts isn’t always bad. If you’re a Christian like me or other religious person you always have prayer. Earlier today, I was on a walk and noticed some angry and embarrassing thoughts, so I practiced my coping skills in dealing with them and returning to a calm stable state. I practiced skills in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which reminds me that I should probably write about some of those later. They’re amazing.
If you still struggle to go for a walk, get a dog. Then you have to walk. Only an irresponsible dog owner fails to walk his dog, and the dog will let him know by misbehaving. It’s hard to say no to the little guys anyway. (or big guys. I once walked a dog that weighed as much as I did).