30-60 minutes walking, 5-7 times per week, is the most elemental way you can help your daily functioning. Seriously.
It's a simple decompression exercise that combines mindfulness and movement. By decompress, I mean consciously taking space in your day/life to let things go and refocus. Or unfocus...they’re both useful! I like using “decompress” as it short-hands that sense of releasing pressure building up with the general business of life. A little like what happens when we sleep, decompress to me means time out to regain your footing.
There's a reason the English called their daily walk taking a constitutional...it's amazing how much it can achieve for your constitution.
A 30 min walk is enough time to get some really important actions underway. 15 mins may not be enough, and 60 mins is a luxury most of us don't feel we have. It helps the immune, musculoskeletal, nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems function, helping you to fight off bugs, relax, reduce anxiety, oxygenate your blood, detoxify and regulate bowel function.
First, walking moves your musculoskeletal system. This means it gets blood and lymph moving and shakes out muscles and tendons. Sitting or standing all day, as many of us do, isn’t normal. Walking allows some of that tension to be gently broken up, and you can choose to focus on your posture to increase this- shoulders back, stomach in...focus on the body; feel what’s happening. Walking can be classed as light or moderate exercise depending on the effort you put in, so it can also count as cardiovascular support if you get the heart rate increased.
Second, by getting the lymphatic system pumping,its supporting immune function and congestion. The lymph system picks up fluid that has moved into extracellular space due to inflammation or other issues, and returns it to the blood. On the way, it filters for pathogens and trains baby immune cells to recognise them. The lymph system has no internal pump- it relies on muscles in general movement to keep things going. Without it, everything stagnates and blows up...fluid congestion happens, bugs aren’t caught, inflammation and pain increase.
Third, by moving everything, it's helping natural detox channels… including the bowel! So, the bowel is where we absorb all our nutrients. It’s also where most metabolic wastes, cholesterol and toxins are dumped. If your bowel transit isn’t optimal, things back up and get reabsorbed. Sweating and breathing are also channels for eliminating toxins.
Fourth, it's a way to focus your mind on the moment, NOT on the tangle that is life. Pick a focus. I like to walk the same route, as I can watch plants and trees change through the weeks and seasons. That's my focus. For others, maybe it's a meditation on the sky. How your body feels. Doing interval walking- 1 min fast, 2 mins slow. Breathing exercises, dogs you meet...find a reason to ENGAGE with the walk. But not with your camera and your mind half on your feed...
Fifth, walking gives your body 30 mins of real breathing, to re-oxygenate blood and clear the lungs, to calm the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic. Nose breathe, if you can. Steadily and deep ( unless you’re moving into that moderate-fast walking bit). Through the day, breathing can be something we neglect, and it impacts far more than we realise.
Sixth...it develops small connections to other locals, if your walk takes you near others, helping to build that web of engagement that humans need. You'll start to see the same people. You start to know who lives where. You start to nod, smile, even say hello and chat. Before you know it, you'll feel part of a village, satisfying a deep part of the psyche.
Disclaimer: If you live in New Zealand and in Auckland, this might take time. Aucklanders are shy, nervous creatures who can take a long time to risk neighbourhood contact…
Seventh , it’s a bit like making the bed. When the day seems overwhelming, or, to be honest, a bit crap, walking for half an hour means you’ve been a responsible human and done some self care. It's only 30 mins. It's achievable.