Body Love and Body Kindness, Exercise, Playful Exercise

Lessons from Walking 10,000 Steps a Day in 2021

Last December, I read a challenge online about walking 10,000 steps a day. I got really jazzed about this idea. The next day, I started trying to walk 10,000 steps a day. (This is about 4 miles for me).

This is a picture from one of my first walks in 2021.

It took me a while to work up to walking that far each day. But since that time, I have walked 10,000 steps almost every day the whole year.

Sometimes I walk a little less, and sometimes I walk more. (I feel the best when I walk 14,000 steps, which is about six miles.) I have probably missed about 12-17 days the whole year when I needed to take a break.

I have written other posts about walking this year and the benefits it has brought into my life.

You can read these posts here:

10,000 Steps a Day for Three and a Half Months

I’m Still Walking

In this post, I want to write about seven benefits I haven’t discussed in the other posts. So are here are seven new, and perhaps surprising, benefits of walking that I discovered (or rediscovered) this year.

One: Walking helps with problem-solving.

If you are anything like me, you regularly encounter problems in your workweek or personal life that you have problems solving. Sometimes they feel so significant that you cannot make any forward progress.

One of the things that surprised me when I started walking is how much walking helps me solve my problems. There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”[1]

This definitely relates to walking.

Walking has a way of stirring up, rearranging, and illuminating your consciousness so that you look at the world in a different way. This often helps me solve problems. I think of walking like a gentle wind that dissipates storm clouds of confusion.

Perhaps that is what has inspired philosophers to write things like this about walking: “Do not believe any idea that was not born in the open air and of free movement.”[2]

So now when I feel frustrated by problems, I go take a walk. It always makes things better.

Update: I realized that I did write about problem-solving in another post, too. So, this item has a repeat of a few ideas from an old post, but the rest of the items are new.

Two: Walking clears distraction.  

Despite its many benefits, one of the unfortunate things about modern life is that we face a lot of distractions. The internet and various other media sources bombard us constantly with advertisements, bad news, more bad news, and constant noise of one kind or another.

But when you are outside, especially if you walk in the forest or around trees, there are far fewer distractions. There are the birds singing. There is the wind blowing. Perhaps you may hear a dog barking or cars far off in the distance.

This decreased distraction allows me to see my life more clearly, which is probably one of the reasons it also helps me solve problems. In addition, the more we clear distraction, the more peace we feel.

Three: Walking helps us connect with our wild side.

You may not know it, but you definitely have a wild side.

Humans evolved in the wild in constant interactions with the birds, plants, trees, sky, mountains, and rivers around them. In fact, human thought and language abilities developed because of our interactions with nature.[3] The wild is our first home, and there is still something deeply wild in each of us.

Walking regularly, especially in the forest or around a lot nature, awakens our wild side and helps us feel at home.

Four: Walking helps you feel connected.

Another difficult thing about modern life is that its distraction and busyness can cause us to feel disconnected from people and the world in general. This can make us feel lonely and alienated.

But when you go on a walk, you suddenly find yourself among friends. On my walks, I find myself surrounded by the sky, the grass or forest floor, trees, by birds, by rivers and creeks, by buzzing insects, and by squirrels and rabbits.

And I realize that my nature friends are always there for me and desire for all of us to flourish. This helps me feel connected and even loved.[4]

Here are some geese that are always at the park at which I walk regularly.

Five: Walking can help us form a more secure attachment with the world.

In psychological studies of parent/child relationships, there is something called attachment theory. Children who are securely attached to their parents know that they can count on their caregivers to look out for them and to return when they leave. This helps children feel more confident and optimistic about the world.

And this relates to walking. Nature is our original guardian and mother. It provides the food, water, and air we need to survive. And even though nature sometimes does weird things, it is also consistently there for us. When we walk regularly in nature, we realize that the ground beneath our feet and the sky above our head is always there.

That helps us feel more securely attached in the world.

Six: Walking helps you realize you are an everyday athlete.

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, I had some awesome P.E. teachers who made me feel like exploring the world through movement was a great adventure.

And I also had some absurd P.E. teachers who made me feel that unless I was on the track team or basketball team, I wasn’t worth their time. Teachers with this attitude convinced me that there were two kinds of people: natural athletes and everyone else. And apparently I was not in the first category.

So, I developed the idea, “I am not an athlete”.

But walking reminded me that everyone is in fact a natural athlete. Because given enough time and practice, we are all capable of doing challenging and even amazing physical things. And all of us are capable of growing in physical strength and capacity.

That’s what an athlete does.

For example, when I started walking 10,000 steps a day at the beginning of the year, it was hard for me to get all my steps in. Now, I easily walk 10,000 steps most days. And quite frequently I walk six miles a day or more.

One time this year I walked twelve miles.

This didn’t happen because I suddenly became an athlete. Rather, it happened because I am natural athlete and consistently developed this capacity over the year.

You are a natural athlete, too.

One of my favorite athletes in the world is my mom who has been a paraplegic for over 50 years but swims regularly. You can read more about her here:

About My Mom: Paraplegia, Swimming, and Resilience

And you can read more here about reconnecting with your inner natural athlete:

How Cultural Messages about Exercise Mess Us Up

Seven: Walking helps you realize that Basic Body Confidence is your birthright. (Trigger Warning: This point talks briefly about weight loss. But it does so in a way informed by Intuitive Eating and HAES—Health at Every Size).

I think that whenever someone writes an article about walking 10,000 steps a day for year, people wonder if walking helped the person lose weight. All of us, especially women, face a lot of social pressure from all directions to lose weight.

Truth be told, I did lose weight this year while walking. But I didn’t start walking to lose weight. And I don’t think that losing weight is of primary importance or even the best benefit of walking.

In other posts on my blog, I wrote about how at one point in my life because of childhood bullying, I developed some obsessive-compulsive fears about gaining weight. This led to obsessive-compulsive behaviors around food and exercise.

You can read more about this here:

Belly Fat: A Love Story

Eventually these issues made me miserable, and I decided that I had to change my life.

So, I started focusing on eating and moving in a way that I love; that energizes me; and that gives me emotional stability to live a joyful[5] life. That’s my eating/movement philosophy, and I call it Basic Body Confidence™. Basic Body Confidence™ is our original attitude towards eating and movement[6].

And we can all recover such confidence.

It has taken me a while to figure out what Basic Body Confidence™ looks like in my life. (It looks a little different in everyone’s life.)  I started walking in 2021 because I realized it was what I needed to further recover my own natural Basic Body Confidence ™. Walking has definitely helps me to do that. And that—recovering Basic Body Confidence ™ not weight loss—is the most important thing.

You can gain weight or lose weight or stay the same and develop Basic Body Confidence™. The question is not what the number on the scale is or what your clothes size is. The question is, “Are you moving and eating in a way that you love; that helps you feel energized; and that gives you emotional stability to live a joyful life?

A Parting Note

I am so excited to continue walking in 2022. Maybe you will decide you want to start walking in 2022, too. Or maybe you desire to connect with yourself and the world in other ways. You’re the boss of you and know best.

Either way, I wish you greater clarity, joy, connection, and adventure in the new year.

Did you know you can work with me in the new year? I work with both individuals and groups in my philosophical consulting practice, Inside Out Consulting. You can read more about it here.

 

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Endnotes

[1] People attribute this quote to Einstein.

[2] And people attribute this quote to Nietzsche.

[3] For this idea, I am indebted to David Abram and his book Spell of the Sensuous, which is the best book I have read this year. It is a really challenging book, but it is so worth the read.

[4] I certainly understand that nature can be dangerous and life-threatening. I live in Kentucky, and within the last month, we endured a deadly tornado and blizzard that lead to our governor declaring a state of emergency.

So, of course, nature can be dangerous. However, there is another deeper aspect of nature that works for well-being, restoration, and flourishing. This is something Peter Wohlleban discusses beautifully in his book The Hidden Life of Trees. This is the part of nature I connect to that helps me feel less alone.

[5] I define joy as the state of mind we experience when we show ourselves respect, kindness, and compassion and develop our constructive human capacities (i.e. like wisdom, creativity, and love).

[6] I call it our original attitude because if you watch young children or adults who have not suffered the pernicious effects of the modern dieting industry, false advertising, or the dark side of contemporary culture, you will find that the naturally gravitate towards Basic Body Confidence ™ habits. (The dark side of contemporary culture encourages alienation, self-hate, exhaustion, and perfectionism, all of which can disrupt Basic Body Confidence ™.)

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