Walking as an art form may not be the focus of most people when they engage in this human activity. Most likely, they would walk as a means of natural movement from one point to another as a method of transport or as a response to a recommended or prescribed exercise treatment to achieve healthful benefits for the body.
The Many Healthful Effects of Walking
Walking, by itself, is indeed recognized in many well-documented studies for its many uses in the proper functioning of different body parts. Whether as an exercise or as a means for physical transport, it is commonly known to lower blood sugar that causes diabetes, as well as blood pressure that causes stroke and cardiovascular diseases among other uses.
When the legs are mobilized to their full functional capacity, the action moves the entire body and strengthens and preserves the body’s muscles, enabling the proper flow of blood up, down, and around the entire body system. Walking thus helps increase metabolism by burning excess fat that causes the body to gain weight that may lead to obesity.
By keeping the legs constantly moving, which is their primary role in addition to carrying the body’s weight, the muscles and bones and all the other body parts are kept to full operating efficiency, preventing many known physical disorders. One classic disorder that is evident in most people who stay standing or seated for unusual lengths of time is the swelling of the veins in the legs otherwise known as varicose veins or spider veins. “Walking prevents those unsightly lines from developing”, says Dr. Luis Navarro of the Vein Treatment Center in New York.
Another important benefit derived from walking is the effect it has on the digestive system. This is a very common disorder among people with sedentary lifestyles. Inactivity causes constipation, and walking regularly every day for at least 10 minutes stimulates the nervous system and gets the nerves and muscles in the colon to perform better and allow a smoother bowel movement.
If you add a little flavor to your walking by doing it with someone as a leisure or social activity, then it assumes the effect of regulating your nervous system, boosting your mood, and letting you feel good overall. Dr. Melina Jampolis, a known book author, says: “Regular walking with someone decreases anger and hostility.”
Recent studies have shown that a simple stroll for 10 minutes can bring about a boost in the condition of the mind that can lead to such states as joviality, attentiveness, and positive self-worth, as compared to a sedentary sit-down posture.
For sure, this mind boost can be further enhanced if we practice what Dr. Deepak Chopra, a famous wellness author, calls a ‘mindfulness walk’ for 10 minutes a day.
According to Dr. Chopra: “Mindfulness is seeing, feeling, and experiencing all that is around you with a sense of kindness and non-judgment. It is being in the present moment.”
A 10-minute walk can be a perfect opportunity to practice and exhibit this mindfulness, especially if we step outside and walk with nature as our setting.
In the present milieu that we are in, we are often in situations of constant stress, which puts our health at great risk. That’s why we tend to overeat, we smoke and drink a lot, we lack sleep, and we get tired easily. We are not conscious of it but this condition is an open invitation to cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and other stress-related impairments.
Being mindful and putting your body in its natural motion are effective steps to relieve us from the day’s tension and recharge our energy-depleted body. Of course, we know that walking is one of the best forms of exercise that can help us regain our lost vitality.
Mindfulness and walking are both easy to do. They do not require any elaborate paraphernalia or preparation. They are free. All that is needed to get to a mindfulness walk setting are comfortable clothes, shoes, and the following guidelines.
- Decide to set aside 10 minutes a day for this activity. You can walk in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid getting under the sun.
- Choose a walk site near your residence or workplace. It is better if you situate yourself near a park where you can do your walk under the shade of trees and the lushness of green plants and fresh air around you.
- Avoid wearing headphones or using cellphones during this time. Practice your mindfulness with your five senses – seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching - in full active mode.
- You may invite a companion to join you in your walk, but orient him or her on the mechanics of mindfulness. Research studies have shown that having a friend join you in an exercise enables you to maximize the full benefit of your walk in terms of feeling at ease, being confident, and feeling supported. These states are needed to bring about a positive mindset.
- As you walk, allow your mind to wander and be surprised by what your senses experience. Be aware of your surroundings: people, flowers, birds, trees, leaves, pebbles, etc. Everything as you pass by becomes an object of wonderment. As Dr. Chopra put it: “Wonder brings joy to those who observe it. And we know that joy brings about better health.”
Walking as an Art
It is not difficult to imagine or even consider mindfulness walking as an art. The legs as art objects are not lacking in the artistic element. They are gracious focal points in beauty competitions, and walking as art can be expressed in a model’s ramp walk, in an aerobic dance, or even in a Parkinson’s walk.
This writer, with his 22 years of being a Parkinson’s caregiver, has seen how this mindfulness walk can bring about positivity, self-worth, and total relaxation to the patients. One could see how focusing on the toes and heels as they hit the floor in playful fashion could produce a creative inspiration that Dr. Chopra describes in his mindfulness walking.
Just thinking about it, if Parkinson’s patients feel good about it and achieve a positive disposition after, anybody who can get to a state of mindfulness can generate the same creative inspiration. We just begin to be mindful of our walk.