Walking Creates Health: Part IV

In the previous 3 parts of the Walking Creates Health series, we’ve looked at how walking is the ultimate multi-tasking miracle for women. Walking creates health for our bodies and our minds in myriad wonderful ways. In this final installment, we’ll be uncovering how walking creates health for our souls.

To recap, for the sake of this blog series, when I refer to walking I’m referring to the 1MWW Practice:

  • Taking mini-walks throughout the day.

  • Going for a brisk 25-minute daily walk.

Before diving into today’s topic, I’m going to offer up my personal definition of the soul. In my life, I experience the soul as an immaterial essence, which is spiritual in nature. Another way to say this is I feel the soul is the energy that causes life—a spark from the divine if you will. The soul has governance over the mystical aspects of our life that are just outside of our language to completely explain. However, wonderful advances in technology and quantum physics are bringing us closer and closer to a full understanding of this animating energy without taking away the mystery, the magic, the wonder.

Here’s how walking creates health for our souls! Walking increases creativity up to 60%. That’s stunning and wonderful and is the reason why I encourage all creatives and business owners to walk every day. Creativity comes from inspiration, which is defined as, “A divine influence or action; and the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions.” We’ve all experienced inspired moments, walking has the ability to bring us those moments on a regular basis.

Walking also brings peace of mind, especially walking in nature. Walking outside is also linked to greater awareness of our Selves (body/mind/spirit) and the world we inhabit. We feel a greater sense of connection when we walk and engage our five senses.

Walking also enhances our intuition—our inner knowing—the “still, small voice within”. And walking is a known action for problem solving. The Latin phrase “solvitur ambulando” means “it is solved by walking”.

When we walk we create health for our bodies and minds, we activate our creativity, solve problems, experience peace of mind and enhanced awareness. Is it any wonder then, that in this relaxed yet vitalized state, our life visions, our dreams of who and what we can become reveal themselves. This is one of the elements of walking I most enjoy—a sense of stepping into the possibility of mySelf and my life.

This article would not be complete without mentioning two spiritual walking traditions: walking the labyrinth and taking a pilgrimage.

A labyrinth (not a maze!) is a patterned path, frequently circular in form used as a walking meditation in spiritual practices. The labyrinth represents a journey into our own center, our own Self and knowing, and back out into the world.

Labyrinths are used in all faiths as a moving meditation. It is believed that as you walk the sacred geometry, the different pathways actually help to calm the mind, open the heart, and rejuvenate the Self.

Ancient labyrinths exist worldwide and have been used in the spiritual practices of such diverse peoples as the ancient Greeks, Hindus, the Hopi Indians, and more. One of the most famous labyrinths is in the cathedral of Chartes, in France. Labyrinths occur in many parts of the world and in almost all religious traditions; they are experiencing a wonderful rebirth as we seek connection with something deeper, more profound, and more sacred in our lives. One of my dearest friends, who lives in Minnesota, creates a snow labyrinth every year in December to mark the holidays, the Solstice, and the inner journey. I love walking that labyrinth!

The pilgrimage is another form of spiritual walking. When you hear the word, pilgrimage, I imagine the following come to mind: Mecca, and the Camino de Santiago. These are the most well known but there are many more throughout the world, like Glastonbury Tor to Stonehenge in the U.K. and the Kumano Kodo in Japan. As I write this post I feel the strong urge to put several of these on my Walking Bucket List!

There is a simple yet profound connection in putting our feet on this planet and propelling ourselves forward. Every walk we take has elements of these ancient traditions and today we have the technology and science to more fully grasp how profound an act it is to go for a walk. What an exciting time we live in when we can acknowledge and validate the value of the intuitive traditions of our past with the technology and awareness of our time. Quantum physics is where I leave off but know this: every walk you take is creating health for your body, your mind, and your soul. What magic there is in this knowing and this practice.

The alchemy of walking is irrefutable, something we humans have known since we first stood upright and walked into our future. Keep walking, walking women. It’s a great privilege to walk with you.

P.S. Please post your comments on this article and the others in this series in the comment area below. I’d love to hear from you. Also, join the 1MWW movement to create health for your Self (body/mind/spirit) every day. To join go here: 1MWW. I can’t wait to walk with you!

Walking Creates Health: Part III

In Part I of this series, I shared my belief about what health is: “A series of thoughts, choices, and actions throughout each day across all the days of our life. Health is a living, breathing state of being.” I also shared that I see the self as a whole—a Self with a capital S—meaning the magical combination of body/mind/spirit vs the view that the self is unconnected or unrelated parts or “just our body”.

In Part II we reviewed how walking creates health for our physical self—our body. Those benefits are remarkable. Today we’re going to take a look at how walking creates health for our minds—a topic I’m quite passionate about sharing with women.

Here at 1MWW there are two components to our walking Practice:

  1. Taking mini-walks throughout the day.

  2. Going for a brisk 25-minute daily walk.

Those two components are what I refer to as walking in the context of this blog series.

So how do mini-walks and a brisk daily walk create health for our minds? Well for starters, walking improves self-perception, self-esteem, mood and (this is huge ladies) our sleep quality. Walking also lowers stress and anxiety. One point I want to really emphasize in this catalogue of benefits is that a regular walking habit reduces our risk of becoming depressed by up to 30% AND helps those who are depressed to recover. This is really important ladies because we are twice as likely to be diagnoses with depression than men.

Another important way in which walking creates health for our minds is that as we age, a regular walking habit can improve cognitive function, memory, attention and processing speed, and reduce the risk of dementia by 40%.

And here’s a bit of body/mind connectivity for you: As you begin to feel more fit, more energized, stronger and more vital from walking, your body image and confidence increase. That’s a fantastic benefit for us ladies!

I believe that our mind is not just the muscle we call our brain but an intelligence that runs throughout our entire body. An intelligence we can harness and fuel through simply walking. And I believe that once we begin walking, and walking becomes a habit, that habit will happily create more health for our healthy minds thus becoming a delightful and life-giving upward spiral of ever-increasing health and happiness. From simply walking.

Next week we’ll conclude this series with a look at how walking creates health for our spirit. Yes, walking is good for the soul! See you then!

PS. If you haven’t already done so, please download my free e-book, The Truth About Women Walking. I wrote it just for you to empower you with the life-saving, life-changing transformation walking can bring to yourSelf and your life. Also, please join 1MWW on Facebook—we’re a group of Walking Women who walk our walk and talk our walk every day!

Walking Creates Health: Part II

In Part I of this series, I introduced this definition of health, “The state of being free from illness or injury.” When it comes to how and why walking creates that state, many women are familiar with the physical health benefits realized by our bodies.

I’m a huge fan of these benefits because walking truly is the magic pill we’ve all been looking for in terms of how to have a healthy body. Here at 1MWW there are two walking components to our walking Practice:

  1. Taking mini-walks throughout the day to avoid the damage done by excessive sitting.

  2. Going for a brisk 25-minute daily walk.

Mini-walks (optimally a 5-minute walk after every 30 minutes spent sitting) create a solid foundation for your health by offsetting the damage done to your body from sitting. (Learn more about that here.) A brisk 25-minute daily walk is a walk that’s fast enough in pace that you can’t sing but you can still talk. I recommend a lunch time walk, especially for 9-5 working women.

When put together these two simple steps bring you the following benefits:

  • Reducing your risk of heart disease up to 40%. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S. This alone is a great reason to get your walk on!

  • Improving your metabolism, which allows you to manage your weight.

  • Burning an extra 1,000-3,000 calories per week.

  • Lowering your LDL (bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL (good cholesterol).

  • Increasing your bone density.

  • Maintaining healthy joints.

  • Toning your legs and core. (Core muscles include your abdominals and your pelvic floor muscles.)

  • Lowering your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers.

  • Reducing back/shoulder/neck/hip and joint pain.

That’s a substantial list of benefits that add up to a greatly improved quality of life. And I have to say, that’s the tip of the iceberg. Walking treats or prevents over 40 diseases. If the pharmaceutical industry was able to package up all of the benefits derived from walking and put them into a single pill, that pill would be priceless! But you can have them all for free. That’s the beauty of walking.

Next week we’ll dive into the mental benefits derived from walking. Walking truly is a miracle “drug”—that’s why it’s the #1 prescribed doctor prescribed exercise. In the meantime, move more and take a brisk 25-minute daily walk. You’ve got some great reasons already!

P.S. If you haven’t already, grab your copy of my free e-book, The Truth About Women Walking. I wrote it to share the transformational power of walking with you. I believe every woman on the planet needs to know the truth--it’s that important. Why? Because walking can save your life, your mom's life, your daughter's life, your sister's life, your BFF's life. That’s important to me, to you, to all of us. Download your copy, get empowered and blown away, then share The Truth About Women Walking with every single woman you know.

Walking Creates Health: Part I

Health is defined as, “The state of being free from illness or injury.” Free from illness or injury sounds pretty good. Sounds like how most of us would prefer to be--every day. But health is not a static, fixed point we arrive at--health is a series of thoughts, choices, and actions throughout each day across all the days of our life. So health is a living, breathing state of being, fluctuating depending on all the variables we throw at it--some of which are doozies.

I don’t know a single person who is rigorous enough in their thoughts, choices, and actions to be “free from illness or injury” one hundred percent of the time. But I know some people who are right up there in the eighty to ninety percent zone, which is a great place to live. Most of those individuals practice health daily by eating whole, live foods, drinking plenty of water, getting outside, exercising, and getting the sleep they need. These health choices aren’t some enforced protocol to make them “free from illness or injury”; these health choices are the habits of their lives so there’s no stress, no forcing, no shaming/blaming/ugly self talk around any of it. They just live a healthy life and are, therefore, healthy.

That being said, for many people those health practices would feel forced, would feel like a tortuous way to live, would feel like punishment. Would be hard practices to adapt and turn into habits.

That’s why I’m a fan of starting with a really basic, yet profoundly effective activity that’s pretty easy to incorporate into just about everyone’s daily life: walking. Why? Because walking creates health.

Walking literally saved my life during the darkest years I’ve ever experienced and it became the foundation for my health practice. I’m a devoted daily walker.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring how and why walking creates health. We’ll do a deep dive into the benefits we realize for our whole Self (body/mind/spirit) when we choose two simple actions:

  • Taking mini-walks throughout the day.

  • Going for a brisk 25-minute daily walk.

These two simple actions have such profound results its like magic! I look forward to sharing the magic with you here.

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Cool Tips to Make Your Autumn Walks the Best Walks Ever!

I will confess freely and openly: I LOVE WALKING IN THE FALL! It’s my favorite time of year to get my walk on. The more hours I can be outside walking, the happier I am. I think I store up the Vitamin D, the golden light, the smells and sounds to replay and re-experience during winter’s long dark hours. Although winter walking is really fantastic too if you know how to layer, which brings me to my cool tips for you, the first of which is layering.

I’m a fan of being comfortable when I’m walking and the key is layering. I keep it simple and make sure I have a warmish layer (fleece or a light wool sweater) to which I can add a windbreaker--with a hood. I carry light gloves and an ear band or hat in case the temps drop or the wind really picks up. I’m more of a fan of hiking pants than jeans or leggings/tights, the main reason for that being versatility and pockets. And on my feet? Lightweight hiking boots with good support and socks that fit and wick.

This combination of layers is lightweight, easy to grab and go, and keeps me comfortable for a power walk or a full day of outdoor exploration. Layering is the key.

My next tip has to do with the two essentials for autumn walking: water and your camera! We too often neglect hydration when the summer heat is gone. That’s a huge mistake! Take water with you and drink it often. If I’m going for a power walk I’ll hydrate before I start and make sure I drink a full glass when I return. If I’m out for the day, I carry at least two liters with me.

And your camera is critical this time of year. The golden light--the incredible color of trees, the slow revealing of the contours of the land as the leaves fall away--capture all of this because this fleeting season is truly one of the most beautiful! The camera on your phone is more than adequate to record your walk so that you’ll have a visual memory later on. Do this--you’ll be so glad you did!

My last tip is to walk at different times of day and in different places. Get a group of pals together for a sunrise walk in your local park or snag your significant other for a weekend away. The light at sunrise and late afternoon to sunset is heart-stoppingly gorgeous and worthy of some effort. And a lunchtime walk under fall’s blue sky is a walk to remember and be grateful for.

There is a sense of aliveness that comes with being outside during this transition season. A glow about the day that you bring back inside with you and keep going with a fire and a sense of satisfaction. Revel in these golden days by layering up or down for comfort, hydrating, walking wherever and whenever, and capturing the moments that speak to you. They’ll speak to you for years to come.

Happy walking!

National Walk to School Day

Today is National Walk to School Day. Communities all across the U.S. will celebrate the benefits of walking to school today. Many of those communities will use today’s celebration and awareness to create safe walking and biking routes for their children and youth. It’s a good day!

Growing up on Signal Mountain, outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, we walked to school when the weather was good. The school bus stop was at the street corner just by my house but on nice days, walking to school was a neighborhood thing. We were an ever expanding group of kids walking the the blocks to our local elementary school. I remember scuffling along through leaves with friends, watching for the crossing guards at roadways, and the elbowing to get to the water fountain before the first bell rang.

Walking home from school was something I looked forward to. The same group of neighborhood kids would gather up and walk home together. Many were joined by their very enthusiastic dogs as they got close to home. We were a big pack of kids and dogs, heading homeward, dropping off by ones and twos at our homes or the homes of our friends. I recall that I felt free, I felt at peace, I daydreamed and walked and the stress of the school day disappeared.

Granted that was a long, long, time ago and times have changed. But the sensation of bookmarking my school day with a welcomed walk has stayed with me.

I’m obviously a fan of National Walk to School Day for many reasons but they all boil down to one: health. The health of our kids, which is enhanced by walking to school. The health of our neighborhoods and communities, which is enhanced by having safe walking routes for our kids. The health of our connections to one another—the shared activity of walking to school means that we’re aware of our neighbors, aware of what’s going on in our neighborhoods, aware of and caring of, one another.

National Walk to School Day is a good thing. Let me know on the 1MWW FB page if your community is participating—I’d love to hear from you and learn how your community is getting its walk on.

Seen on My Walk: Lake Tahoe!

It’s been 35+ years since I’ve been to Lake Tahoe and my memories from that time are vague at best. I recall Ponderosa pines, an enormous vibrant blue lake, big mountains, and some ski runs. Fast forward to early September of this year and I was wowed in the best way!

I was in Tahoe on a combined business/pleasure trip—more of an emphasis on pleasure truth be told. A wedding and the opportunity to spend time with old friends plus the incredible bonus of seeing my daughter took me from Nashville to Tahoe via Salt Lake City, Reno, and a little drive through Nevada. I am (and most likely always will be) amazed at how we can travel across this enormous country in a day. Incredible! Delta Airlines you were fantastic.

My time in Tahoe was too short but the time I had I spent wisely! The best hours were spent walking on the beach with two of my favorite people whom I love dearly and hadn’t seen in seven years! It may seem a small thing but in reality it’s a huge thing. Years from now I’ll remember the feeling of that walk—the joy in being with old friends, the awe I always feel in the presence of natural beauty, the coarse sand underfoot, the wonderful wind off the lake on a hot summer day, and the deliciously cold water. (Yes I did a bit of aggressive “wading”!)

What a wonderful experience to travel across the country, find old friends in a new(ish) place, and create a vital memory. Next time I’m in Tahoe—and there will be a next time—I’ll walk these memory miles with a smile on my face, joy in my heart and soul, and gratitude that something as simple as walking can be so profoundly powerful.

Walking makes life better—get your walk on!

P.S. I’ve shared more photos from my Lake Tahoe walk on the One Million Women Walking FB page. Jump on over and see if you recognize that handsome fellow next to me!

Where To Walk When You Travel for Work.

One of the big conundrums we walking women face is where to walk when we travel for work. We want to stick with our Self-care basics--moving more throughout the day and a brisk daily walk of at least 25 minutes--but sometimes travel makes that goal a bit more challenging than we’d like. Here’s a few tips to keep you walking no matter where you are!

First of all, airports = walking! And sometimes that walking is speed walking pulling a carry-on and throwing in moves worthy of a running back. If that’s not a walking workout then I don’t know what one is. Do not discount the walking you do at the airport just because it’s not your “normal” routine. You’re on your feet and you’re moving--that counts!

If you have time before your flight or significant layovers during your travel, use those minutes/hours to move more! Many airports have relatively empty concourses and gorgeous art displays. On a recent trip I walked through the Salt Lake City, Reno, and Atlanta airports for a cumulative 8 hours. As a result I got in my walk, I moved more, and I wasn’t too jet-lagged even though one of my flights was a red-eye.

Walk at airports and stand when you’re waiting for your flight and, once you’re on the plane, commit to being THAT passenger who gets up and walks every 30 minutes. Remember that after just 30 minutes of sitting, your metabolism has slowed by 90%. You need to get up and move to reset your body, refresh your thinking, and renew your spirit.

The biggest tip I can give you to guarantee walking at your destination is to plan ahead just a bit. The first step is to make sure that your hotel has a gym or workout room. This is a must! Then, before your trip, call the front desk of the hotel where you’re staying and ask the following questions:

  • Do your treadmills or ellipticals work? (This is an important question!)

  • Is there a park nearby that’s safe for walking?

  • Is there anywhere else nearby that you’d recommend for walking?

If the treadmills are working, you have guaranteed walking--that’s the perfect fallback. However, if your schedule allows for it and the front desk was able to recommend some local walking areas, map them out in advance online, pack for the weather, and look forward to seeing some new sights while you’re there. Just make sure that the areas are true walking areas: well lit, accessible, safe, and beautiful!

Also, hotels have stairs and halls! Use the stairs more than the elevator and do some extra laps down the hall past your room to get in a bit more walking. These little extra steps add up! In fact, I’ve used hotel stairs and halls as my workout on more than one occasion when the weather was horrible and the gym’s treadmills were all being used. A little creativity and determination go a long way when you’re traveling!

My last tip is to make sure you stand and move more throughout your day, even if your day is filled with meetings or day long conferences. Do your best to get up every 30 minutes and walk briskly down the hall and back, to the water fountain, to the ladies room etc. This won’t feel like your normal pattern but make it your normal travel pattern and commit to doing what you can, where you can, when you can.

Travel doesn’t have to disrupt your health and wellness if you plan ahead and stay determined and committed to caring for yourSelf every day. Get your walk on when you travel for work and let me know how it goes in the comments here or at One Million Women Walking on Facebook. I can’t wait to walk with you!

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Making a Decision That Really Changes Your Life

You’re at your favorite coffee shop deciding whether you’re going to order a cappuccino or an espresso. You like them both and you know either one will be made and delivered right away. Ahhh--immediate gratification. So the decision here really boils down to which one you're in the mood for.

Other decisions, like deciding to lose weight, get in shape, and build your self- confidence, can’t be dependent on whether you’re in the mood or not. They are going to take time. And dedication. And commitment. Alas, your coffee will be long gone.

Here’s the difference between a coffee decision and a life-changer--with a life- changer aka a change in habits--you need to return to the core of the decision over and over again as you feel yourself wavering/faltering. You need to decide to really change your life and stick with that decision over time. Deciding something, truly deciding is a profound act--it’s your promise to yourself. It sets your intent for what’s to come and holds you in that intent.

Wanting to change something about your life means you are yearning for the life transformation it will bring you. What’s required is that you give yourself the opportunity for that transformation to take place. If you can’t do this as the first key step, you will sabotage yourself.

There are four steps you'll need to take to avoid the trap of self-sabotage. They are:

  • Be willing to take action.
  • Be willing to suspend judgement of yourself and whatever process you're using to make the change.
  • Be willing to give the process the time required for change to take place.
  • Be willing to ask for and receive help when you need it.
     

I won’t insult you by telling you change is easy if you're "really committed". Commitment is a big component of making a lasting change but it's certainly not the whole picture. To succeed you need to open your life to the entire opportunity for true change. Go into the experience open-hearted and open-minded and willing to practice the four steps I just mentioned. By doing so, you give yourself the gifts of time, energy, and curiosity that will create the changes you yearn for and so richly deserve. Most of us self-sabotage because we simply don't give change all of the resources it needs: time, energy, curiosity, and our willingness. And please, please ask for help! Going it alone is a sure way to fail!

Think seriously about the following questions when you are considering making a change in your life. These questions are a great way of testing your readiness and commitment to the change you want. Ask yourself:

  • Am I truly ready to take action?
  • Am I truly ready to suspend judgment of myself and this process?
  • Am I truly ready to give this change the time it requires?
  • Am I truly ready to ask for and receive help when I need it?

If you can answer yes to these questions then you're ready to change and ready for your change to succeed. True change requires a decision that you make over and over again during the change process. Back your decision up with appropriate action and thinking during the time required and make sure you get the help you need when you need it. Then and only then will you realize the change you want. 

Let's get changing!

Walking Old Paths and Finding New Joy

I've been away for most of the month of June. I was house sitting for my amazing mom while she was in Alaska for three weeks. Mom lives in Hudson, Wisconsin, which is just twenty minutes from Stillwater, Minnesota--the town I lived in for the better part of the last twenty-five years.

During my time in the Upper Midwest I reveled in the springtime weather--warm days, cool nights and long nights by the way. Sunsets lingered well toward 9 PM, which felt wonderfully indulgent when spent out walking or on the screened porch with a glass of wine.

I walked many times in Stillwater, daily in Hudson, and I took one big hike in Afton State Park to film an episode of Wander on Purpose. Here's the link: Wander on Purpose, Episode 11.

On all my walks I had that wonderful sense of having been there before but at the same time, seeing it anew because of my time away. What a wonderful way to time travel inside one's own life. I strongly encourage revisiting old paths with new eyes--it's a bit of magic!

I'll leave you with a few highlights from my time away--the bear in the neighbor's yard, the summer solstice sunset, and my geeky walking companions on Brown's Creek State Trail. I hope your summer finds you walking and smiling on paths both old and new.

 A very large bear. He was quite thrilled to find the neighbor's bird feeder. That's it in pieces at his feet--down there by his claws.

A very large bear. He was quite thrilled to find the neighbor's bird feeder. That's it in pieces at his feet--down there by his claws.

 Oh what a gorgeous way to mark the solstice. I was out walking when I took this photo! So happy to share it with you!

Oh what a gorgeous way to mark the solstice. I was out walking when I took this photo! So happy to share it with you!

 These two youngsters were doing their best to figure out the meaning of the yellow line on Brown's Creek State Trail. Shortly after I took this pic they jumped the fence and headed for the woods. Some folks just aren't meant for pavement. I completely understand . . .

These two youngsters were doing their best to figure out the meaning of the yellow line on Brown's Creek State Trail. Shortly after I took this pic they jumped the fence and headed for the woods. Some folks just aren't meant for pavement. I completely understand . . .