Walking every day may have profound health benefits.
As winter sets in, most of us are probably not as active as we usually are during warmer months. Winter is a time of stillness, reflection and rest. However, we still need to exercise, even if it's at a slower pace. Walking offers us a chance to move our bodies, keeping our systems running smoothly without the over exertion of other high powered activities such as jogging or competitive sports. And this calmer rhythm found in walking, especially walking in nature, is a true blessing in supporting the overall health of our bodies, minds and spirits.
New research shows that regular walking can reduce the risk of breast, bowel and other cancers significantly. It has long been known that regular exercise can improve risk factors for many serious health conditions including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and more. Now researchers are saying you don't have to be an athlete -- that regular, moderate exercise can provide just as many health benefits by improving oxygenation, circulation, immune response and helping to flush out toxins.
Why is simple walking so effective at preventing cancer? Really, it's not about the walking, but the movement. We find that any movement can help cancer, whether dance, yoga, even support groups, which can create movement between people. But sometimes, people who do high powered exercises and sports do not reap the same rewards. Why not? Because when we engage in such competitive, goal driven activities, we are not really allowing ourselves to be present in the moment, and thus we're not allowing the movement to really happen. We are not relaxing into the moment.
On the other hand, when we are walking, particularly in nature, we are not trying to achieve anything. It's about being present in the process. When we walk in nature, there is an ongoing exchange between us and our surroundings which offers great healing on its own. But the one thing walking does compared to other sports and exercises, is it creates a rhythm which we can follow effortlessly. Through the physical rhythm, which is the rhythm of the body, we have the emotional rhythm. We notice that when we walk, feelings often come up, and we have a chance to process them. There is also a psychological rhythm and a sense of well being, a certain expansion that happens when you walk enough. This can partly be attributed to the endorphins released by even moderate exercise. But there's a deeper and more subtle process of healing that is also occurring.
The walking, because it's rhythmic and repetitive, allows for the release of physical, emotional and psychological energies that are stored. It's also important when we walk to pay attention to the movement our hands. Sometimes when we walk, we can shake our body in a non rhythmic movement to allow some of the less defined patterns that are not repetitive to come out, and this allows for a more unusual release.
So when we walk, we are walking on all levels, physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual. What ties it together is the breathing. As we walk, we naturally start breathing deeper. It's a good idea (and sometime this happens on its own without our awareness) to start synchronizing our steps with our breathing. You will notice that the inhalation/exhalation starts being synchronized, and when we are running it's hard to do this because we are moving too fast. Rhythmic breathing becomes the key.
With walking we can synchronize the movement of the body, the movement of the breath, which is called the speech level, or the throat chakra in Eastern philosophies, and the movement of the mind, through emotions, feelings, and thoughts. This is really the powerful value of such a simple exercise, where walking becomes more than just walking. It becomes a profound and harmonizing therapy benefiting us on all levels, body mind and spirit. For more practical health advice, visit www.dreliaz.org.