Those who know me know how I feel about walking. It is the most perfect form of exercise. Not just because its free and acheivable for most of us, or good for the imagination and creativity, or stress-relieving…NO, its because, done properly it loads the joints perfectly, with just the right amount of impact, not too little, not too much. It switches on our big muscles, helping to strengthen our hearts and it mobilises our joints. In a wonderfully gentle manner. As a pharmacist, I would say its the perfect concentration.
I have worked hard with my kids (now teens) to develop a love (or at least a readiness) to walk. I’m not talking about wonderful hikes in beautiful places; those are once in a while gems . I’m talking about a walk around the block. It takes 25minutes for us which is just enough time for a teen to spend with a parent! Acheivable,eh?
It may not sound exciting and in fact it really isn’t. But its just a little weapon in our “HealthyHappyFamily” toolkit. We often go for a walk around the block after dinner, after sunday lunch, when tensions arise, when we need to seperate siblings,when we know somethings up but they aren’t talking. Walking gives us time in a big open space. And it is in that space they relax, feel less vulnerable and open up.
I found another use: Exam Preparation. As an Exercise and Movement practitioner, I absolutely hate the thought of my son sitting hunched over books for hours while studying for his GCSEs.Long hours of studying can really impact the body. Tension builds up in muscles around the jaw, neck, shoulders, elbows, and fingers. The spine is in its least favourite position (sitting relatively still) and our biggest muscles are all switched off. Its not a great place for the body to be. So we use our half hour walks to do revision. Its a great way of breaking up sitting time. And have a break from time indoors in unnatural light. Talking through his learning helps to cement those ideas in his head. Sometimes (if I’m listening hard enough) I may challenge him or question him but sometimes, I admit, he just waffles on while I nod sagely and think about other things. And ofcourse sometimes he doesnt want to even think about school work, so we just chat about other things and the walk just heps him relax or have a mental break. Win win!
So, whether you are a parent reading this or a teen, here is some more motivation to get you walking:
1. Walking Boosts memory and brain performance
Research conducted by Dr. Chuck Hillman of the University of Illinois provides evidence that about 20 minutes walking exercise before an exam can improve performance.
2.Speaking Out Loud helps you remember better
Human brains are naturally wired to speak, not to read or write. Apparently you are 50% more likely to remember something if you speak it out loud instead of reading it over and over. Try it with your walking buddy
3. Walking reduces stress
Exercise attacks stress in two ways, according to Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen, Ph.D., a kinesiologist at the Yale Stress Center. He told HuffPost Healthy Living that raising one’s heart rate can actually reverse damage to the brain caused by stressful events: “Stress atrophies the brain — especially the hippocampus, which is responsible for a lot, but memory in particular. When you’re stressed, you forget things.” Exercise, by contrast, promotes production of neurohormones that are associated with improved cognitive function, elevated mood and learning. And that can improve thinking dulled by stressful events” — some research even shows how exercise can make you smarter.
When we exercise the body’s systems are switched on,fired -up and communicating with each other making it more efficient and functional; the more sedentary we get, the less efficient our bodies in responding to stress.
4. Teaching is a great way of learning
The best way to test if you really understand something is to try to teach it to someone else. Use your walking buddy as a victim!
5. Walking in green spaces is especially good for mental health
6. While learning you are also working towards you 10,000 steps a day
Its pretty hard to acheive 10,000 steps a day if you are hunched over books or the computer. Why not use a step app on your phone and try and get at least 6000 on days of hard core studying. The more steps you take, the better for your overall health and well-being. Your big muscles (legs,butt,back,core) are all switched on again so your heart is happy. Your spine is happy as its mobilised again and the pressure is off. And the tension in your upper body is slowly released. You now have a happier body!
7. Keep it simple
Keep your walk simple and acheivable. Small bite sized walks where no preparation is needed are best. The biggest put of for a teenager is the thought of a long walk and knowing they’ll have to spend so much time with mum or dad! Just walk out the front door and keep it short.
Emotional wellbeing is just as important as academic success. And walking helps with both. Wishing you lots of luck in your exams!