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Spirited Walking
An "uplifting" physical activity

To get the most out of your daily walk, try walking with a "spring in your step". To see this motion without walking, stand with your feet side-by-side, a few inches apart, and gently bounce up and down on your toes. Your toes should not leave the floor, and your heels should almost contact the floor on the downward part of the movement.

You have your calf muscles to thank for this.

Now, as you briskly walk, add a little bounce into your step. You'll find if you shorten your stride, it will make "bopping along" feel more natural. Yes, when you add a spring to your step, you'll tend to walk slower than if you weren't walking spiritedly, but remember, it's not a race; you want to get the most benefit out of your walk.

Am I Doing it Right?

If you're doing it correctly, you should feel your chest area bouncing (both men and women). For women, this does not mean that you must now switch to a more "supportive" bra; on the contrary, if you want to lessen your risk of breast cancer, you WANT your chest bouncing when you walk briskly (see "Bras & Breast Cancer"). So-called sports bras actually increase your risk of breast cancer. (see "Bras & Breast Cancer") (I know I'm repeating myself, but breast cancer is more preventable than you've been led to believe... Breast cancer is avoidable if you know the facts.)

The Benefits

The motion that spirited walking produces causes your lymphatic fluid to circulate (it doesn't circulate much when just walking, cycling, or rollerblading). The movement of lymph fluid is critical to preventing disease!
"Lymphatic Exercise for Vibrant Health"). Spirited walking is also a great workout for your calf muscles and other leg muscles. And since your steps are shorter, your footfalls are less "heel intensive", which means less impact transmitted to your knees and spine, and since it's a walking gait (body weight always supported by at least one leg), it's gentler on your joints than jogging or running.

What Do I Do With My Arms?

Keep them, you need them to hug people. Seriously, let them swing naturally. Avoid using hand weights. If your mood is such that your arms start bopping also, great! At this point, you may find yourself whistling... and you may also notice other people looking at you wondering what you're so happy about.

The Variables

The three things you have control over while strut'n your stuff are:

1. The amount of bounce. This is controlled by how much your calf muscles are working. You don't have to bounce so hard that things start falling out of your pockets, just make sure you can feel your chest bouncing a little.

2. The length of stride. The longer the stride, the harder it is to bounce, so don't walk like you're late getting somewhere. Enjoy your walk.
3. The speed of your walk. This variable is based on your energy level; some days you'll walk at a brisk clip, other days your pace will be slower. But remember, ambling, strolling, moseying, or sauntering may be nice to relieve stress and smell the roses, but those slow paces don't do much for your lymph system.

By varying the above three things, you'll discover many combinations; find the ones that feel most natural to you.

How Much Should I Do?

I don't like to specify an amount of time for something like this because I believe this should be dictated by your body. In-other-words, as many hours of walking as your body likes. I could say the more the better, but not beyond the point where your body wants you to relax. And walking races, and walking X number of miles or minutes/hours does not respect your body. If you make decisions that should be made by your body, that's a recipe for disaster at some point.

A Great Indicator

As its name implies, spirited walking is easier to do when you're in good spirits. If you're down-in-the-dumps, you may not feel like bopping down the boulevard, but you should give it your best shot. Getting your body moving up and down not only benefits your physical self, it also does wonders for your spirits. So, spirited walking doesn't just describe how it looks, it also helps improve your mood. Accordingly, the easier you take to this type of walking, the healthier you are... in both mind and body.

Back to "The Healthiest Way to Exercise"