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Strolling Can Assist You in Managing Your Routine Fitness

During our time residing in Spain, my mother would often leave my siblings and me at school in the mornings, then embark on a four-mile stroll with a circle of fellow female expatriates. Each day, they gathered to stride and chat. This tradition eventually led many of them to forge enduring friendships.

During my early teens, I considered this activity the most mundane “mom pursuit” imaginable. But now, in my mid-thirties, I comprehend the appeal.

Prior to my recent relocation from Portland, Oregon, I maintained a weekly walking appointment with one of my dearest companions. Regardless of the weather (which was typically rainy), we met every Sunday and wandered along the various paths in Forest Park, explored waterfall routes in the Gorge, or meandered through our neighborhoods for a couple of hours. It provided us with an opportunity to detach from our own thoughts, converse about life, and appreciate the little things: the first signs of crocuses peeking through the soil in February, an owl napping on a branch, the scent of cherry blossoms in full bloom.

When the pandemic swept the globe in 2020, I began taking daily walks by myself—occasionally three times a day, akin to a canine—knowing that I would always return feeling better than when I had left. Living alone, these brief strolls alleviated my anxiety, encouraged me to slow down and embrace life by the hour, or sometimes by the minute, and directed my focus towards what I could manage within my immediate environment when everything else seemed chaotic. They also helped me feel more connected to the world, less isolated.

The advantages of walking for physical health, mental well-being, and creativity have been extensively documented. Walking is a natural stress reliever, yet able-bodied individuals often take it for granted. Despite the trendy phenomenon of “hot girl walks,” walking is frequently dismissed as “insufficient” to qualify as “legitimate” exercise. In a society that tends to assess self-worth based on maximizing productivity, walking can be perceived as a waste of time. Why stroll for an hour when you could run for 15 minutes and then return to work?

Nevertheless, I posit that it is this leisurely pace that grants us the opportunity to better understand ourselves—and that is one of the most underestimated benefits of walking.

Life can be turbulent, accelerating as we age. Yet walking can help mitigate this perpetual rush. The tranquil, unhurried pace allows us to pay closer attention to our internal and external surroundings. While biking or running, the focus is typically on progress, potentially causing us to overlook a large banana slug or a hummingbird darting by. However, if we are compelled to take more time to travel from point A to point B through a simple, repetitive motion, we will often find ourselves introspecting, sometimes without conscious awareness. A study from 2021 even equated the self-reflective advantages of walking to those gained from a therapy session.

Walking also alters our perception of time. This becomes remarkably evident to me on extended hiking trips. Trekking through the wilderness for four or five days can feel like weeks. Journeying 700 miles along the Camino del Norte and Primitivo in Spain over 45 days last summer felt like half a year. During these expeditions, I sense that I have lived a condensed existence within my regular life. Time elongates, my senses sharpen, and my bond with the environment intensifies.

When your daily routine mainly comprises walking, eating, sleeping, repeating, your mental scope can broaden. Every step necessitates you to listen to yourself and confront your concerns more promptly without the distractions of everyday living. Every individual I have encountered during these pilgrimages has experienced internal transformations that they did not foresee.

Within this unhurried timeframe, even when my feet ache and fatigue creeps in, I cultivate greater honesty with myself. My inner voice amplifies, becomes more robust, and I learn to heed and trust it more effectively. I develop clearer boundaries, comprehend my limitations, and foster more self-belief. Ultimately, I ascertain how little I genuinely require to feel content.

Although grand hiking expeditions like the Pacific Crest Trail or Camino de Santiago may not be feasible or desirable for many, I contend that engaging in regular walks each week can provide us with the space to become better acquainted with ourselves, regardless of whether we are in solitude or not.

Walking has transformed into the realm where I feel most authentic. It serves as a reminder that, in the end, despite the clamor of the world, life is about savoring each step.

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