5 Ways to Cheat the Health Benefits of Walking
Everyone knows that walking is good for you, but hardly anyone has the time in compact modern life to saunter three to nine miles a day, as our ancestors did. Dr. Loren Cordain, ancestral diet and lifestyle expert, has spent his academic career digging into the habits of our forbears. In his research, he states:
“A large amount of background daily, light-to-moderate activity such as walking was required. Although the distances covered would have varied widely according to hunting and foraging routines, cultures, weather, seasons, ages, etc., most estimates indicate that the average daily distances covered were in the range of 6 to 16 km.”
So if we want to be happy, relaxed, and hormonally balanced like our ancestors, does this mean we have to walk up to nine miles a day? Here are the five greatest benefits of walking and tips on how to cheat them.
The benefit: Reduced stress
The phrase “Go take a hike” apparently was aimed at people who were acting stressed out, and as it turns out, there lies scientific fact in that folk wisdom.
The cheat: Belly breathing
If you don’t have the time or the capability of walking, the fastest way to reduce stress is diaphragmatic breathing.
Ph.D. endocrinologist Dr. Ray Peat, expert metabolic researcher, says that stress is a function of energy. This means that the more energy you have, the better you’ll be able to combat stress. Diaphragmatic breathing is the fastest way to increase blood oxygen, respiration, and energy to help you think and handle stress.
Place your hands on your lower abdomen and push outward as you inhale so your belly fills your hands. As you exhale, shrink your stomach back away from your hands. This is the way to draw air deeply into your lungs and fill your body with oxygen. Practice for five minutes while bringing your attention to the breath itself, and feel your muscles relax.
The benefit: Lymph pumping
Much of the benefit associated with walking is through its action as a lymphatic pump. Our lymph system contains four times as much fluid as our blood supply, but without a central pump like the heart, it relies on gravity, muscle contraction, and movement for circulation. But walking between three and five miles to get the benefit is more time than you may have.
The cheat: Rebounding
Since your lymph system relies on gravity, movement, and muscle contraction to pump fluid from your tissues to the appropriate waste systems, we can use our understanding of gravity and simple tools to hack the system. Rebounding significantly increases the force of gravity on your lymph system, causing fluid to pull and circulate throughout your body.
If you don’t have a mini-trampoline (simple tool) to soften the impact on your joints, you can achieve similar effect by squatting, thrusting your arms up, and propelling off the ground no higher than an inch or so; repeat for one to two minutes.
The benefit: Enhanced creativity
A Stanford study on walking revealed that participants who took a walk scored higher on tests than those who had been sitting down. The benefit is largely attributed to the body-mind connection and the integration of both hemispheres of the brain.
The cheat: Juggling
Juggling increases communication between both hemispheres of the brain through the corpus callosum in ways that stimulate neural growth. While creativity is displayed in the world by making new connections in words, work, or art, your brain simultaneously makes new connections in your neural circuitry.
Rather than enduring the elements or the traffic, step back and juggle for a minute or two and see how it boosts your creativity and enhances your ability to make new connection. As a bonus, juggling puts off a circus-y vibe that makes people feel happy and lighthearted.
Juggling takes a bit of practice, but anybody can do it. With all the benefits buzzing around this silly-seeming activity, it won’t hurt to give it a try. Watch this video for an excellent tutorial to kick-start your new creativity booster.
The benefit: Full-body workout
Walking engages your glutes, thighs, pectoral muscles, shoulders, biceps calves, shins, abs, and even your eye muscles. But achieving significant stimulation of all those groups can take hours that busy men just don’t have.
The cheat: Squat jumps
Three to five minutes of squat jumps can accomplish muscle stimulation that would take hours of walking. Sneak in a set between meetings, after lunch, or on coffee break to work all of your muscle groups and enhance neuromuscular stimulation and hormone output.
If you haven’t done a squat jump before, don’t worry; they are very simple and require no equipment. Watch this video to master a squat jump.
The benefit: Time in nature
Spending time in nature is a good thing for us. This never required a scientific study to figure out, but they went ahead and did one anyway. Walking is a blissful way to reap the benefits, but studies have shown that simply listening to sounds of nature can have similar affects on our mood.
The cheat: Your iPod
Spending time in the woods is idyllic but entirely unrealistic for most of busy people in the office or workplace. YouTube has more “sounds in nature” playlists than you could listen to in a lifetime, as does SoundCloud, so plug in at your computer or on break.