Walk On By
When the circuit breaker measures came along in April 2020 and threw the whole of Singapore into a “lockdown”, we all found ourselves trapped at home, not knowing what to do. Many of us quickly found a routine – be it jumping to our work desks at 9am, with free time spent experimenting with new recipes, spending quality time with our families, catching up on sleep, or trying out a new exercise we found on YouTube.
I do not speak for all, but I, for one, did everything except exercise. As with many others, the reality check only came when I had to return to the office in June 2020. Weight had already been gained, but the size of my clothes remained.
In my defence, I complied with the directives and did stay home. Aside from that, however, my weight gain could have been avoided and prevented had I made the simple act of stepping out of the house each day to walk.
It was only after the circuit breaker period that I realised that my steps had been significantly reduced. I did not need to walk to my office from the train station. I did not need to walk far to get my lunch. I did not need to walk to court. I did not even need to walk to a meeting room, or the printer!
Perhaps some of you may already have long adopted the habit of walking, especially for people who are proud owners of dogs. However, I believe that walking continues to be one of the most underrated forms of exercise. This has become even more apparent after the circuit breaker period.
Most of us prefer to undertake the fastest and most effective form of exercise, be it an hour in the gym doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts, or going for a run, just so that we can get back to our work as soon as possible. However, this is exactly the reason why walking may be more beneficial than one thinks.
Walking helps us to, just like what COVID-19 has done to us, slow down. We try to fit the most into our days, to the point that exercise is expected to be quick. With walking, however, you take the time to appreciate the little things in life, to literally smell the roses (if you see any).
I personally enjoy long walks in nearby estates. Sometimes, I choose not to map out any route, to remain spontaneous and go wherever my feet take me. In doing so, I have discovered new shops and restaurants, things I never would have known from simply driving by.
Walks need not be done alone. Taking walks together as a family or with a companion allows for more quality time. It becomes the perfect activity as it caters to varying levels of experience and intensity. Without the excessive panting from a jog, you can still engage in meaningful discussion with your loved ones in the open, and not just at the dinner table.
Walking improves your mood. Many studies have been carried out to show the positive (mental) effects of walking – which include improving one’s attentiveness and self-confidence, helping to reduce anxiety, amongst other things. You may even have found yourself ending an argument by exclaiming “I am going to walk it off!” and finding yourself much more cool-headed afterwards.
Walking also helps to increase our creativity and the flow of ideas. Especially when we find ourselves stuck in a mental block, a 15-minute walk could be more effective than having that cup of coffee. When we allow our minds to wander, we also allow more mental space to innovate thereby creating a possible “Eureka” moment.
As a personal preference, I enjoy taking walks without listening to music. In the same vein, I would encourage everyone to try walking without using your phone (unless it is absolutely necessary when you do get lost). Without distractions from your phone, you will find your walks far more liberating, especially when you place your focus on sights and sounds that you have never paid notice or attention to. This way, you begin to appreciate the beautiful surroundings we live in.
Walking takes the stress off your body. Walking is a low impact exercise which can be done over long distances and longer periods of time. Not to forget that it still has the same benefits as other forms of exercise, without the pressure on your joints.
It is not hard to find out more about the countless physical benefits of walking on the internet. Walking alleviates depression and fatigue, improves blood circulation, reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, so on and so forth. In fact, walking at a moderate speed or intensity can be said to be almost as effective as going on a run.
Walks do not necessarily need to be planned. Walks need not take place in East Coast Park or MacRitchie Reservoir. Even one-kilometre walks back from your heartland shopping mall to your home is a good start. Or perhaps, try walking from Raffles Place to City Hall for your lunch appointment, which only spans 1.2 kilometres. In fact, bonus points to you for being green by not driving to cover that one-kilometre distance!
How about having a spontaneous walk together after a gathering? This would help with digestion after a heavy meal, or even to make some space for dessert or a pint after your walk! Some possible routes include a walk from Orchard Road to City Hall or Marina Bay. Spontaneous walks make for a little adventure!
Finally, the best part of walking is that all you need is a good pair of walking shoes. You certainly do not need to pay a cent for membership, neither do you need a fancy new pair of Lululemon tights to walk.
It is never too late to start walking if you have not already been active. Walking is the most basic form of exercise and movement. You can walk alone (although some believe you never walk alone). You could even find a walking buddy or organise walk-a-thons with your friends.
If you are embarking on your walking journey, you may also consider tracking your progress – how far, how long and how often you walk – to be more aware of your body, and also for that real sense of achievement. This would also help with motivating yourself for the next walk you plan for.
Walking is the best compromise for those who do not subscribe to intensive workouts. This simple and underrated form of exercise can take place anywhere, anytime. We just need to keep moving – a short walk is always better than none.
I look forward to the day that we can walk in the streets without a mask. But for now, I hope you enjoy your walks and find the simple joy in taking it slow once in a while. Happy walking!