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Short and Sweet Summary: Nothing about widowhood is easy except when it comes to one simple, yet effective, exercise regimen. If you need to take better care of yourself and are looking for something easy, free and sustainable, follow these hard-to-argue-with reasons why widows should walk every day.
Are you a widow who needs to take better care of herself?
I’m sure you are, because grief can suck the marrow right out of your soul and it’s endlessly exhausting putting on a brave front for everyone all the freaking time. The last thing you do after taking care of everything and everyone else is think about taking care of yourself.
The thing is, you know exercise is important. You know you need to take care of your health. But do you know how to make an exercise regimen sustainable?
I’ve bought into the hype and purchased all the programs and apps and exercise classes advertised on every social media platform known to man, and I’ve retired them all because they don’t work. After doing ALL THE THINGS and regretting every minute spent doing exercises that hurt, are no fun, or are too complicated, I finally returned to my tried-and-true routine. The one thing that isn’t too hard. The one thing I know for sure works.
Yes! Good old-fashioned walking is the perfect way to move your body, get your heart rate pumping, and burn those calories.
I mean, it’s easy, right? It’s free. And it’s sustainable. You can do it every day and you won’t go broke or get burned out by walking.
What more could you ask for?
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF WALKING
If your health needs a reboot, walking is a good place to start because you get SO MANY benefits just from moving your body. I know it sounds counterintuitive to move your body when you’re exhausted, but walking doesn’t make you more tired. It actually has a sneaky, energizing effect instead.
I always feel better after walking, regardless of my energy level before I started. Plus, there are lots of good reasons to go for a walk. It’s fun, it’s relaxing, and most importantly, it’s good for you. But you don’ have to just take my word for it.
Here are some concrete, hard-to-argue-with reasons why widows should walk every day.
Walking Helps Your Mood
If you’ve spent too much time inside your house hiding under a (literal or figurative) blanket of grief, it’s time to get back to the land of the living. Breathing fresh air does wonders for a grieving soul. Not to mention basking in the sunshine and absorbing all that healthy vitamin D.
But it doesn’t have to be a clear, sunny day to reap the benefits of walking outside. I’ve walked on overcast days. I’ve walked in the dead of winter when the cold air pierces my lungs and catches my breath. And I’ve walked in the rain so many times I’ve lost count. It’s just as cathartic to breathe in the fresh rain air as it is on those crisp, clear days. Actually, I kind-of like those rainy days when grief gets the better of me and my tears mix with the rain. I’m crying and no one is the wiser.
No matter the weather, walking releases endorphins that are scientifically proven to help lift your mood. The next time you’re in a foul mood, lace up your sneakers and go for a brisk walk. Don’t let the weather deter you. It’s too easy to make excuses about why you shouldn’t walk, so don’t let the excuses prevent you from doing what’s good for your soul.
Walking Helps Your Body
Walking burns calories, my friends! You already know that, but I’m going to remind you, anyway. Whether you’re looking to lose weight or just maintain your current weight, walking is a simple, yet effective, way to shed those pounds.
Walking also strengthens your bones and muscles to improve muscle mass and increase endurance. The more you walk, the farther you can go. Remember, your heart is also a muscle, so going for a brisk walk works out more than just your lower body. As you walk more and more, your heart gets stronger and better at pumping blood through your body, which reduces blood pressure and improves circulation.
Oh, and if that’s not good enough, one 30-minute walk five days a week can lower your risk of premature death.
What are you waiting for?
Walking is Low-Impact
I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the harder it is to put lots of pressure on my joints. I can’t do jumping jacks like I used to or run around the block as easily as I could in my youth.
Which is why I love walking so much. It’s the perfect low-impact exercise.
I’ve sprained an ankle and pulled too many muscles to mention trying to keep up with those difficult, high-impact routines. My knees and I don’t love high-impact exercises any more.
I want an easy, stress-free way to get moving and walking fits the bill.
HOW TO GET INTO THE WALKING HABIT
So, do you agree that walking is a good idea?
Now that you’re on board with this simple, yet effective, exercise regimen, how to do you get into the habit of walking regularly?
Find a Good Route
Walking won’t do you much good if you don’t appreciate your surroundings. It’s too easy to get discouraged when there’s nothing appealing about where you’re walking.
Spend some time going on different paths to see what appeals to your senses the most. Sometimes half the fun is travelling off the beaten path and discovering unfamiliar terrain. I notice when I’m near water or somewhere with lots of flowers and wildlife, my mood is naturally elevated. But I can reap the benefits of walking if I just go around my neighborhood, so I don’t worry too much if I can’t get to my special destinations.
If you want to get into a good walking habit, venture off into unknown territory when the mood strikes, but keep your tried-and-true favorite paths easily accessible so you won’t talk yourself out of walking. If you need to drive 30 minutes to walk, you might not keep up with it for too long.
There’s nothing wrong with taking the same route every day to help you form a habit. I walked with a neighbor of mine around our neighborhood doing the same three miles three days a week for several years.
Learn Something New
One of my favorite things to do is walk and listen to music, a podcast, or a book on tape. I love multi-tasking, so I’m happiest when I can exercise and learn something new at the same time.
The time goes by much faster when I’m entrenched in a delightful story or a good podcast. I decide which podcast to listen to based on how far my walk is, but one of my favorite podcasts, The School of Greatness, gets me around my longest path because most episodes are 60+ minutes long.
Plan a Walking Date with Friends
As much as I love my alone time when I walk, it’s nice to plan a walking date with friends or family to catch up. Instead of inviting a friend out for coffee or lunch, consider making a walking date instead. Not only is it more fun to walk when you have someone to talk to, it also has some built in accountability. Chances are good you won’t back out of a walking commitment when other people are counting on you to join them.
I find that walking and talking makes the walking part that much easier. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been out walking with friends and at the end of the walk, it seemed like mere minutes passed instead of an hour or more.
If you don’t have many friends or family options nearby, consider finding a walking group in your area. Many libraries and community centers offer information on walking groups or you can search walking groups in your area on meetup.com.
Keep Track of Your Accomplishments
If you’re going to get into the habit of walking regularly, you might as well keep track of your distance. It’s fun to set and reach goals and when you see how far you’ve walked in a week or month, it gives you that much more incentive to keep doing it again and again.
You can use a simple pedometer to track your steps or an app that uses GPS to track your route. I use an app called 99 Walks that tracks my walks and sends me a bracelet every month that I meet my goal (#incentives).
If you wanted to up your fitness game, you can use a Fitbit and keep track of your steps, distance, hourly activity and calories burned.
However, many smartphones have built-in GPS trackers or pedometers, so you don’t need to buy anything to keep track of your mileage. It just depends on how much accountability you need/want.
Meditate while you walk
You don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor chanting “ohm” and burning incense to meditate. Did you know you can meditate while you walk?
You can and it’s a thing.
If you need a mindfulness reboot as well as a physical one, consider a walking meditation to clear your mind and realign your soul. All meditation requires is a focus on your breath. So, you can breathe and walk and mediate at the same time.
Sometimes it’s easier to think more clearly when you’re moving around. I know I’m not good at sitting down and meditating, so sometimes I take my meditation to the streets. If you’re going to choose a walking mediation, it makes sense to walk somewhere that’s quiet or has fewer distractions.
An easy way to get into the right state of mind is to listen to a guided walking meditation. No need to get hung up on clearing your thoughts or counting breaths when you can listen to someone else do it for you.
A walking meditation has the power to get you in touch with your genuine emotions and feel those feelings you may avoid, so don’t be surprised if the tears flow. Just accept your emotions and be curious about what they’re trying to tell you.
With continued practice, you’ll find that walking meditations can be a powerful tool to calm, refresh, inspire, and motivate you.
WIDOW WRAP UP
Of all the things you do in any given day, making exercise a priority is one of the most important. I know how hard it is to put yourself first and sometimes grief makes it really difficult to get up and get going.
But once you start, it’s easier to keep going. Once you take a deep breath full of fresh air, you realize what you’ve been missing. And when you get outside and get your body moving, you feel better both physically and mentally.
The main reason why widows should walk every day is to give your health a reboot, but you’re also giving your grief another outlet. You can listen to podcasts about grief or any other subject, listen to a book on tape or just take in the sights and sounds around you and get out of your head.
It’s good to get out of your head every once in a while.
If you’re not convinced yet, here are 50 Amazing Benefits fo Walking Daily. I can attest to #21 and #22!
So go already! Get to steppin’!