When I presented our Nutrition Seminar a couple of weeks ago, I talked quite a bit about habits. I encouraged those in attendance not to dismiss the “easy wins”. So often we completely write off something that would be fairly simple to do, because it seems like something simple couldn’t possibly help us accomplish something hard. This type of thinking might cause us to be stuck not taking any action at all. Or lure us toward something difficult like very restrictive diets, or workouts that are too high in intensity, only to fall back to where we were before because we are trying do things that aren’t sustainable.
At the Seminar, I gave the example of making a habit out of drinking a glass of water first thing every morning. This is one of my personal habits, and one I suggest often as an “easy win” when people want to make nutrition changes. If you have a goal to change your body composition, you might be tempted to dismiss this habit as not enough to make any real change. However, being dehydrated can cause headaches, food cravings, and poor performance in your training sessions as just a few examples. So, on its own the habit of drinking water first thing in the morning might not be enough to give you the results you are looking for, but consider briefly all the other things that would likely change if you were consistently more hydrated.
Another personal habit of mine is a daily walk for at least 30 minutes, and I firmly believe this is one of the most powerful habits you can embrace. It’s a relatively new habit for me, but having had it in place for about 7 months now, I can speak firsthand to the benefits. Before I share what I’ve noticed in my own life, here are some of the general benefits of having a regular walking routine:
Reduced risk of many diseases and health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s/dementia
A brisk 30 minute walk can burn between 100-200 calories
Can decrease food cravings for sugary snacks
Helps lower blood glucose levels - especially important for people who are diabetic or pre-diabetic
Improves mood and helps you think more clearly
Boosts immune function so you get sick less often and/or have milder symptoms
Releases pain-relieving endorphins, and eases joint pain by lubricating joints
Can be effective at reducing internal belly fat, known as visceral fat
Helps eliminate waste products from the body, which can increase energy levels and allow you to heal more quickly from injuries, as well as recover faster from training sessions
Of course many of these benefits are not exclusive to walking and can be gained by other types of exercise as well. However, a quick google search of any of these above points will direct you to several research studies to support that a regular walking habit has these positive effects.
I committed to making walking a regular habit last summer because of a back injury that I shared about a couple of times in blog posts last fall. I go for a 30 minute walk around my neighborhood, usually 5 or 6 days a week (sometimes I get all 7 days, but life happens). Like any new habit, at first it wasn’t easy. As a business owner, I always have things that need my attention, and finding 30 minutes a day to myself seemed like a tall order. Sometimes I would forget. Sometimes I wouldn’t feel like doing it and I’d talk myself out of it. But I’m no stranger to creating new habits, so I gave myself grace to be imperfect and I pressed on.
Now, my walks are a big part of my self-care routine and I can’t imagine my week without them. I look forward to them and I appreciate all the things they do for me. Aside from the general benefits I shared above, here are some of the personal things I have noticed due to my walking habit:
My back pain is dramatically reduced. Walking was one of the main physical activities that proved to me that there were things I could do that didn’t cause pain. That realization helped me keep developing my recovery plan to include more and more movements that feel good to me. I would say by now my back is probably 80% back to normal, but on days where it feels cranky, walking is the fastest way to get it feeling better.
My ability to let go of stress and anxiety is noticeably improved. Even if I start off my walk feeling stressed about something, I always feel better by the time I get home.
I have more energy, and now that I am doing some more challenging training again, I notice that my walks help me recover faster from training sessions.
Despite the initial concern over taking 30 minutes away from work that needs to get done, I find I actually do a better job of concentrating and getting tasks done more efficiently because I have allowed myself a “brain break” and time to clear my head.
My screen time on my phone is down.
As a Type 1 Diabetic, I notice a difference in my blood glucose levels.
In general, I feel more positive and have a greater sense of gratitude.
The power of one small change. One small change that quite clearly led to many other small changes, that over time led to big results.
I hope that this inspires you to create a regular walking habit, or at least go for the “easy wins” instead of dismissing them. And when you do, look for all the ways your life is positively impacted by that one small change!
Strength & Love,