The Benefits of Walking

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Reviewed March 2016

Today’s topic is walking.  Is it still the best exercise for overall good health?  Well, I think it is.  It’s the easiest! The famous cardiologist, Dr. Paul Dudley White, who was responsible for those wonderful walking paths along the Charles River and also the inventor of the EKG, said, I have two physicians: my left leg and my right leg.

Walking does a number of things.  First of all, it seems to help you digest your day emotionally.  How many of you have found that when you’re up against a problem that you can’t seem to crack you go for a walk?  It works as well often, maybe better, than sleeping on it.  Sleeping on it, of course, is a different mode in the brain.  But when you walk and when you exercise, you bring into play all the memories in your muscles.

You also do another thing.  You create a rocking motion in the sacrum, and that actually helps pump cerebrospinal fluid, which is loaded with immune system cells and loaded with neurotransmitters, and you pump that throughout your entire body. 

Walking is physiologic in the extreme.  It’s very easy.  If you have problems with your hips or your knees, then I would use walking poles.  Those fitness poles work beautifully, Nordic walking is the name of that exercise and I’ve watched so many people be able to get back on their feet and walk using those poles, those who have knee and ankle problems or foot problems.

Now when you go out walking, you need, you absolutely need a decent pair of shoes with a good arch support. Don’t walk in flip-flops. Or if you do walk in flip-flops, get a pair of flip-flops that have really good arch support. There’s a new brand that I’m loving and it’s called Fit, F-i-t Flops. I think you can get them at fitflop.com. They’re the best thing going. But mostly when you walk get a good pair of running or walking shoes.

Walking is also great because you can talk and you can talk and you can visit with your friends. You’re also swinging your arms, you’re increasing your breathing. Now, when you walk you ought to be breathing through your nose, all the way and all the way out. Walk no faster than you can walk comfortably breathing through your nose. The same goes with running, by the way. If you’re a runner, switch to nose-breathing. It will absolutely transform your fitness routine.

As little as a 20-minute walk three to four times a week can transform your health, but the real wonderful goal to shoot for that the American Heart Association recommends is 10,000 steps per day.  We ran a contest in my home area of Portland, Maine, and the people who did the 10,000 steps per day found all kinds of ingenious ways to increase those steps. And they all used a pedometer. I love my pedometer. It’s extremely inspiring.  Though I have to tell you, 10,000 steps a day is a lot. On my regular daily walk I only have about 5600 steps, so to get to 10,000 takes a lot of extra effort. But I do many other kinds of exercise, so you don’t have to do it all just through walking.

But walking is something you can do anywhere. There’s no special equipment. You can go anywhere.  And it’s also something you can do at any age. No excuses. So get out there and walk.

Oh, one more tip. I’ve done something recently that really enhances my walk. I have limited time. I know many of you have limited time, and I wanted to add more bang to the buck for the walking fitness. So I bought something called a walk vest. And the walk vest is something in which you can put weights in these pockets and then you wrap it tightly around your waist, you’ve increased your weight-bearing exercise that way and it also helps exercise your core. I believe I’m up to about 10 pounds in my walk vest. I kind of look like Laura Croft, Tomb Raider, which makes me feel good about myself. And I walk with that so I get more aerobic fitness and more fitness in general, more muscle strength for the same amount of time.  So you might consider that as well. Whatever you do, just get out there and walk as much as you possibly can.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.


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