Health And Wellness

How To Walk Your Way Into Good Health

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How To Walk Your Way Into Good Health

Although it is one of the best and most underrated forms of exercise, there are many benefits to walking.

It is a low-impact sport compared to running, and is especially healthy for your heart, lung, and body metabolism.

At the same time, walking improves your mood, memory, and posture. More importantly, you can do it anywhere and it won’t cost you a thing, unlike going to the gym.

But walking can also be so much more than merely a physical exercise.

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How and where you walk makes all the difference.

Scientists have found that exposure to blue spaces such as lakes, rivers, and the sea are particularly beneficial to mental health.

A team from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) undertook the first international review of 35 studies on "blue spaces." They concluded that outdoor blue spaces not only reduce stress levels, but also improve general well-being.

What's the difference between taking a hike and a deep-walking experience lasting several weeks, such as a pilgrimage path?

One of the most popular paths is the Camino de Santiago in northwestern Spain, which has been traversed by pilgrims for centuries. In recent years, it has been rediscovered by tens of thousands of people from all walks of life as a path of healing and self-discovery.

Some of the world's most creative and talented artists, including Johann Sebastian Bach, William Blake, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau explored their inner worlds on long walks.

The conservationist John Muir, tormented by nightmares and anxiety after nearly going blind in a work accident, immersed himself in nature on a 1,000-mile journey on foot from the banks of the Ohio River to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Nobody who walks the 500 miles of the Camino with serious and mindful intent comes back the same.

As you walk from day to day through rain, mud, and hot sun, passing village after village and climbing mountain top after mountain top, a mystery unfolds from within.

When the many external distractions fall away, the universe starts whispering to the soul.

Pilgrimage walking is a spiritual practice.

Many-a pilgrim walking the Camino starts the endeavor searching for meaning after going through a serious illness, grieving over the death of a loved one, or walking off the trauma of a divorce.

One of my lasting memories was meeting with a retired French army officer walking the Camino with two donkeys. He told me his daughter died of cancer some months back.

"It was her dream to one day walk the Camino with a donkey," he said. "Before she died, I told her I would do it on her behalf. And here I am."

"It is those moments when you lie flat on the ground," another pilgrim told me, "that you go through the biggest spiritual teaching."

So, walking for exercise is not only physically beneficial — it is also good for the soul.

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Reino Gevers is a life coach and author. He has chronicled the experience of pilgrims in his book Deep Walking for Body, Mind and Soul. For more information, visit his website.