BeforeYourNext Birthday-DeniseFisher’s Blog

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10 Reasons To Take A 20-minute Walk in Your Neighborhood

Posted by denisefisher on February 25, 2009

Walking Feet

Approximately 80% of the US population lives in urban (or suburban) areas, where there are neighborhoods. I’m in this demographic, and these tips are written with these people in mind. But if you’re not living in such an environment, read through the list, note the benefits, and find ways to apply them to your situation.

10 Reasons to take a 20-minute walk in your neighborhood

1. Exercise
2. Know what’s going on
3. Social encounters
4. Vitamin D
5. Natural appetite suppressant
6. Day dreaming/idea gathering
7. Sensory awareness and appreciation
8. De-stressing
9. Solitude or partnership
10. Serendipity

1. Exercise
The physical benefits of exercising are the most obvious. You’ve heard these things before. You know you should get more exercise. I’ll skip all that. Just remember that a 20-minute walk in your neighborhood is a manageable physical activity. No special equipment or scheduling or other preparations are needed. Any amount of walking that you actually do is better than an intended 30-minute workout at the gym that never happens. It’s not an all or nothing proposition. Walking counts.

2. Know what’s going on
You’d be surprised at the amount of information you can gather about your neighborhood in the span of a 20-minute walk. You’ll find out when someone puts their house up for sale. You’ll be aware of construction or renovation projects that are going on or getting ready to start. You’ll see repairs being made to utilities (which might solve the mystery in your own house as to why all of your clocks and electronic appliances reset to 12:00). If you walk the neighborhood routinely, you’ll notice when someone gets a new car, see when someone’s putting up a new fence, or discover a beautiful antique table that someone is putting out for trash pick-up.

3. Social encounters
It’s always good to know who your neighbors are. I’ve come to appreciate this more as I’ve gotten older. Ideally, you’d like to be on friendly terms with whoever lives next to you, but even if it’s just a casual greeting as you pass each other coming and going, it’s better than nothing. If you’re out walking, you’re more likely to have such encounters with your next door neighbors and other residents in your vicinity. Beyond the polite salutations of “hi, how’s it going?” there should follow an actual introduction and maybe an exchange of phone numbers. The more you are seen and greeted by your neighbors, the more friendly and approachable you will be. Having an amicable relationship with those on your street comes in handy when you need someone to help jump-start your car or sign for a package when you’re at work during delivery hours. Being a good neighbor is a good policy. Being seen walking in the neighborhood is a good way to improve your status.

4. Vitamin D
Exposure to direct sunlight causes the body to create vitamin D. You can’t get this benefit if you’re inside, and you can’t get it through window glass in your car, home, or office. You need to be out in the sunshine during daylight hours, every couple of days. There are conflicting views and studies about how much is enough and how much is too much, and the scientific recommendations seem to change constantly. So be intuitive and moderate about your exposure to get a reasonable benefit without the detriment.

5. Natural appetite suppressant
There are several studies to suggest that exercise affects metabolism and suppresses appetite. Anecdotally, I’ve experienced this effect, and I’ve heard similar results from others who exercise regularly. Try if for yourself and see if you don’t notice a similar effect. What’s the worst that could happen?

6. Daydreaming/idea gathering
After walking for about 10 minutes — once I get into a rhythm and stop paying such close attention to my steps and my walking technique — I notice that my mind becomes relaxed and starts to drift off into a dreamlike state. I start to develop solutions to problems that I’ve set aside, and pieces of ideas begin to come together into innovative possibilities. This is most likely to happen when I walk by myself, and it’s both calming and exhilarating at the same time. Who wouldn’t want to experience that?

7. Sensory awareness and appreciation
When you walk consciously, and allow your senses to experience the world around you, you’ll find that there are all kinds of sights, sounds, and smells around that you miss when you’re hurrying off to one place or another. It can be a pleasant surprise to take in the fragrance of blossoms on a tree, charcoal grills being fired-up, or fresh laundry smells coming from a dryer vent. If you don’t stop to notice, you can miss the sounds of songbirds in the trees or the distant sound of someone playing piano near an open window. You can appreciate the bright colors of a flowering bush or the neatly manicured landscaping of a neighbor’s yard. It’s all good. Breathe deep and learn to adjust your attention so you don’t miss savoring these sensory experiences.

8. De-stressing
Walking is a great way to release tension in your muscles and allow the natural hormones that are released during exercise to calm your nerves. Deep breathing helps, as does good posture. Both of these can be enhanced by walking. And if you’re not stressed, you’ll probably experience less frustration and less yelling, so it’s got to be beneficial for relationships too. It’s always good to take time out to unwind and regain perspective. Did I mention that walking is also energizing and gives you momentum?

9. Solitude or partnership
Enjoying a few minutes of solitude or a few minutes of one-on-one time with your partner or child is a fabulous bonus you can get by walking your neighborhood. If you’re walking with someone, it allows for pleasant conversations of the day’s activities or discussions of upcoming plans. It’s an opportunity to build or maintain rapport and intimacy. Or it can be a time to be competitive, whimsical, or silly together. If your walk is taken without a walking partner, take the time to enjoy being alone with your own thoughts, unjudged and uninterrupted. You can choose which works best for you – solitude or partnership. Maybe mix it up from time to time.

10. Serendipity
You can’t plan for the unexpected or anticipate a spontaneous occurrence, but you can be aware and receptive for a serendipitous encounter. An open mind and a youthful sense of curiosity will reveal unimagined possibilities you could not have foreseen. Look for the sign.

Finally
I wish I could remember where I read this so I could cite it, but one guy described his two-step motivation technique for walking exercise this way:

1) Get shoes on.
2) Get on the other side of the door.

I love it! Sometimes, getting started is just that easy. So let’s do it. As soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to go out walking. Meet me on the other side of the door.

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2 Responses to “10 Reasons To Take A 20-minute Walk in Your Neighborhood”

  1. I walk everywhere that I can, including to work on the other side of the city (1 hour). It gets the endorphins going and always perks me up.

  2. I’m with you, Alex; gotta love those endorphins. I use a pedometer, which makes me conscious of the amount of walking I do, and it’s turned me into an “exercise person.” Now, if something happens in which I don’t walk or exercise for a day or two, I really miss it and feel compelled to get out and walk.

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