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Want to live happier and healthier? Then start walking!

Walking through the four seasons

Suzanne Tucker | Antonio Guillem | everst | llpuntoafuoco | Shutterstock | Collage by Aleteia

Cecilia Pigg - published on 02/27/24

There are so many benefits to walking that it would take a book to list them all -- but here are some of the joys I have experienced in walking places.

“Mom, are we walking or driving?” I love that my boys ask me this question whenever we are heading out the door. I’ve lived in cities for most of my adult life where it is possible to walk to the store, to church, to the library. And walk I have. Only recently have I realized and been able to articulate the simplest reason I walk: walking brings me joy.

Another reason is that it forces me to slow down and notice more around me. It makes me prioritize the rest of my day differently, giving me time away from screens and “normal” life. And the older I get, the more I appreciate the physical and mental benefits of walking.

Sun illustration

PHYSICAL BENEFITS

Physically, walking helps your body by preventing a whole host of health problems including heart disease and cancer and diabetes. It strengthens your immune system, increases your energy, keeps excess weight off, and helps you sleep better. One way to stay motivated if you want to walk more is to track your steps on your phone! I know it can be very motivating to reach a certain number of steps every day—and a walk will help skyrocket your step count.

On an afternoon last year, after missing my morning walk for the second day in a row, I struggled to keep my eyes open. I felt sluggish and out of sorts. Putting two and two together, I realized walking helped me feel more awake and alert throughout the whole day. I didn’t miss my walk the next day!

Mandarin duck illustration

MENTAL BENEFITS

Emotionally and mentally, walking reduces tension and stress and improves your mood. It does this in part by connecting you to your surroundings and the people in your area. Once on a daily lunch walk with my husband, we noticed a group of people gathered around a nearby drainage ditch with phones and nice cameras held aloft. We trotted over to see what was going on and discovered a beautiful Mandarin duck swimming in the ditch, quite out of place in our middle-American city. It was moving to spontaneously stand in awe with others, gazing at unexpected beauty.

Nowadays, on my morning walk with my boys, I find it much easier to enjoy their questions and engage with them than it is at home or even in the car. We sing on our walks, we talk about the funny moments in books we read, and I attempt to answer all the obscure queries that cross their minds quite happily — mostly because there isn’t much to distract my attention.

Maple leaf illustration

SPIRITUAL BENEFITS

Spiritually, walking helps me pray. Whether it is an incredible purple sunset on a Lenten evening, or the bright smile that utterly transforms the face of a fellow walker as she passes by or finding the biggest leaf I have ever seen — these all point me to Jesus! I become aware of God’s greatness and my littleness all the more — which ultimately leads me to thank Him and know Him a little better.

If you need a friend to help you, St. Paul had to walk a lot on his missionary journeys. He might be a good patron saint to encourage you on your own walking adventures. We have found that a good way to keep Sunday holy in our family is by exploring nature trails in our area. One year we challenged ourselves to try a different trail or hike in our city every Sunday from spring until autumn. It was amazing how many options there were nearby! Some of our fondest memories are from those adventures.

St. Paul, pray for us!

Tags:
Health and WellnessMental HealthSaints
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