Walk in Sunshine

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I’ve mentioned before that days and days of cloudy gray skies have a negative effect on me. Those symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder? I get those during the winter.

After an abundance of overcast skies this month and days of freezing cold, I was ready to get out of the house when the sun shone brightly today and temps reached the low 60s. I knew exactly how to beat the winter blues and boost my health at the same time.

This is walk number 26, Walk in Sunshine.

Walk in Sunshine title

Discovering Healthy Sun Practices

We owe cats our gratitude. Thanks to a cat that Danish scientist Niels Ryberg Finsen observed, sunlight became recognized as a source for healing.

Finsen suffered from a metabolic illness that would eventually end his life at age 44. However, 20 years before that, as a young medical student, he noticed that cats tend to gravitate to sunny locations. His observations led him to experiment on himself with the sun’s rays. Finsen concluded that sunlight has a useful effect on health.

Finsen won the 1903 Nobel Prize for his light therapy work. As his studies spread, 36 heliotherapy centers, also called sunbathing clinics, sprang up in the Swiss Alps. Patients exposed to sunlight often experienced encouraging results.

Today we tend to avoid sunlight, for good reason. Too much time in the sun isn’t good for us. However, up to 70% of the population is deficient in sunlight’s best known by-product, vitamin D. And scientists now know that isn’t the only benefit from limited sun exposure.

Walk in Sunshine sculpture garden
A place to walk in sunshine, the sculpture garden at Mercy Park.

Vitamin D

Although it’s only one of the benefits of sun exposure, let’s start with how important vitamin D is.

This essential vitamin is created when ultra violet light in sunlight touches the skin. The manufactured vitamin D travels to the liver and then the kidneys before becoming a hormone called calcidiol. This hormone regulates levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body, mineralizes bones and helps with the assimilation of vitamin A. However, calcidol has a relatively short life span in the body so we need frequent “doses” of sunlight to maintain adequate levels. Scientists recommend three to thirty minutes of sunlight a day, depending on skin sensitivity.

We learned during the recent COVID pandemic that vitamin D is crucial to the immune system. The immune system fights off pathogens by creating antibodies and also protects against everyday exposure to germs and viruses. The stronger the immune system, the better the body can resist illnesses during the winter months.

Additional Benefits of Sunlight

But there is more!

Heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, several types of cancers, depression, dementia and multiple autoimmune disorders are linked to low levels of vitamin D AND lack of sufficient sunlight. A 20 year study of 30,000 Swedish women identified a significantly higher death rate for those who avoided the sun.

It is now believed that sunlight activates T cells beneath the surface of the skin. These defender cells move into the blood, circulating throughout the body, boosting health.

Sunlight also plays a vital role in producing melatonin which helps us to sleep well and wake refreshed.

And sunshine triggers the feel good hormone serotonin. That’s another reason why we feel so good when we are outdoors in sunlight.

Walk in Sunshine - Mercy Park
Walk in Sunshine – Mercy Park. The pond still has a thin layer of ice on it.

Walk in Sunshine Tips

To benefit most from the benefits of sunlight, take a short walk whenever the sun shines, with sleeves rolled up and skin free from sunscreen.

Wear sunglasses or a wide brimmed hat to shield eyes from too much light.

Avoid sunburn by covering back up after 10 to 30 minutes, depending on skin type and sensitivity. Out walking, set a timer. When it goes off pull sleeves back down, cover up with a lightweight shirt or jacket and/or apply sunscreen.

Avoid highly polluted areas. Air pollution significantly reduces the amount of UVB and weakens the formation of vitamin D.

Morning sunlight helps to set circadian rhythms and improves sleep at night.

If your skin isn’t used to direct sunlight, build up exposure slowly. Start with five minutes and work up to 10 to 15 minutes.

If you are concerned about not wearing sunscreen, apply a mineral sunscreen that protects from UV rays without hindering the production of vitamin D.

My Walk in Sunshine

I felt an immediate boost in mood today when I woke to sunlight streaming in through the window. In the late afternoon, I drove to my favorite walking location, Mercy Park. Temperatures hovered around 62 degrees.

Carrying my metal water container and pushing my shirtsleeves up, I walked around the park for about 20 minutes, savoring the feel of sunlight on my face and arms. It felt SO GOOD to walk in sunshine. Apparently others thought so too. Dozens of people walked the path around the pond.

Health Boost

I needed that walk in sunshine today, as much as I needed nutritious food. I’ll be watching the weather forecast as we move into a new month and taking advantage of all the sunshine filled days.

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, then 52 Ways to Walk is for you!

The activities in the book are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And Walk with a Map at this LINK.

Are you getting outside on sunny days and boosting your health?

Walk in Sunshine rays on my face.

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

 

Walk With a Map

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Whenever I travel, I browse through my fun book, 52 Ways to Walk, to see if I can find one that works with my trip. So far, I always have.

On my recent trip to Savannah, Georgia, I selected number 24, Walk With a Map. With my illustrated map of historical downtown Savannah packed in my carry on, I looked forward to carrying out this activity.

Check out why using a map in an unfamiliar area is actually beneficial!

Walk with a Map title

Imagining a Place

In her book, author Annabel Streets tells the story of a young woman who finds herself homeless in Paris in 1924, after her brother disappears. Phyllis Pearsall quickly learns how to navigate the city, even though the only map she possesses is one she memorized. Covered with newspapers at night, camped under a bridge, Phyllis pulls up that mental map and practices finding her way around Paris.

As she explores, she learns landmarks and comes to recognize what time of  day it is by the scents she sniffs in the air. Baking bread and hot chocolate mean it is still morning. Chicken and galettes signal midday. And frying fish, garlic and meat cooking mean evening has arrived.

Phyllis eventually becomes one of the most successful mapmakers in the world. She creates the first A – Z map of London and then the Geographer’s A – Z Map Company.

She is a testament to what neuroscientists have now learned: every walk is an opportunity to grow the brain.

Walk with a Map study
Walk with a Map – studying mine every evening at the hotel.

How Walking With a Map Boosts the Brain

Neuroscientists suggest that the hippocampus, the part of the brain used for navigation, grows as we use it and shrinks in size when we don’t.

Studies of London cabdrivers, who must learn to navigate that huge city, have oversized hippocampi, due to their skills in finding their way through London.

Sadly, technology today takes away our ability to navigate by landmarks or maps. It’s too easy to pull up GPS to find our way to an unfamiliar destination.

Our reliance on technology is shrinking essential parts of our brains, making us more prone to dementia. How can we keep our brains more healthy?

Walk with a map. The hippocampus stores place memories. In a new location, we begin to create spatial memories that are stored in special cells. We create a brand new mental map as we walk and gather information.

Additionally, researchers found that the region of the brain responsible for spatial navigation also plays a part in prediction, imagination and creativity. It also helps with social navigation and building relationships.

Walk with a map landmarks
Walk with a map – landmarks such as City Hall in Savannah helped me build my mental map of the city.

Tips for Walking with a Map

In a new to you location, start with a general idea of your destination, without setting a time limit on getting there. Cities are good because they offer multiple ways to get to a place.

Study the map of the area before beginning the walk. Note the direction you’ll travel and try to stay away from overly busy highways or freeways.

As you walk, identify landmarks such as tall buildings, large trees, church steeples and anything that catches your attention because of interests you have. Using landmarks to navigate is known as landmark-based piloting.

And finally, use your senses. What do you hear as you walk? A chiming clock in a tower is good or the smell of bread baking in the corner bakery. Refer to your map to mark where those sounds or smells are and let those places serve as locational markers.

Pause as needed to get your bearings. Sit in a park, and remember that park as a marker. Study the map. Resist the urge to pull up GPS.

Once you find your destination, congratulate yourself! Well done. Now….see if you can find your way back to your hotel…or to another destination in the city.

Walk with a Map presbyterian church
Walk with a Map – church steeples make excellent visual markers.

My Experience on my Walk with a Map

I love the illustrated maps from Karpovage Creative. I have one for Charleston and Savannah and I’ve used them in both cities. One of the reasons I appreciate them is because they have historical buildings and locations marked on the map. That helps me find those visual markers more easily.

Every evening, I studied my map and made notes about what I wanted to explore the next day. It became a nightly ritual that I enjoyed as I sipped a cup of hot tea.

One of my planned activities was to find all 22 squares in Savannah’s historical district. They are laid out in a grid, so once you find one, you can figure out where the next one is.

However, more than once, I wandered away from the square I’d located. After realizing I had no idea exactly where I was, I’d pull out the map and study it to head in the right direction for the next square. I found them all.

The map also helped me get an idea of where the restaurants were that I wanted to try and how far the walk was to the meeting place for the ghost tour.

Walk with a Map pulaski square
One of the squares I located, Pulaski Square.

My Mental Map of Savannah

After spending five days in Savannah, and using my map as needed, I feel like I have a very good mental map of Savannah. Landmarks such as City Hall near River Street, Johnson Square, the Cathedral Basilica of St John and the Mercer House all became visual markers that helped me navigate. I knew I was headed in the direction of the river when I heard the barges or the cry of seagulls. And I could tell about what time it was by the trolleys going by and the delicious scents wafting from restaurants. I hope that means I came home with a bigger brain!

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, then 52 Ways to Walk is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And Take a 12 Minute Walk at this LINK.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And tell me. Do you enjoy walking with a map?

Walk with a Map mercer house
Walk with a Map – Mercer House

Interested in Savannah?

Check out these posts:

Vegan Eats in Savannah

Fun Things to Do in Savannah

Ghost Stories from Savannah

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

Take a 12 Minute Walk

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I recently realized that it has been a minute since I experienced a stroll from the book 52 Ways to Walk. And with the realization came the determination to browse through the book and select a new walk to try.

July in Missouri is hot and humid. I didn’t let that stop me from choosing Walk #7,  Take a 12 Minute Walk. In fact, the muggy weather inspired this choice. Even with the late afternoon heat I felt I could handle a 12 minute walk.

Why 12 minutes?

Check out the post for the reason behind this particular time.

Take a 12 Minute Walk title

Why Take a 12 Minute Walk?

Sometimes, due to stress or busyness or life situations, we push the activity of walking to the “I’ll get back to it soon” list.

This chapter in the book encourages us to stop postponing this incredibly healthy activity and get back out there by walking for just 12 minutes a day. According to a study from Massachusetts General Hospital, walking for 12 minutes is enough to dramatically improve health.

Researchers tracked 411 middle aged men and women, measuring the levels of 588 metabolites in their blood. These molecules are biological markers within the body that gauge the current state of health.

By monitoring the participants’ metabolites before and after walking, researchers could determine the amount of exercise required before changes took place.

They found that after 12 minutes of brisk walking, 80% of the metabolites in the participants’ bodies showed positive change.

Take a 12 Minute Walk mercy park
Take a 12 Minute Walk – Mercy Park in Joplin

Changing Health for the Better

One of the metabolites that changed dramatically was glutamate. The brain creates glutamate when the body is under stress or exposed to toxins. Too much glutamate in the body is a biomarker for heart disease, diabetes and a shorter life span. Excess glutamate is also linked to brain shrinkage, a common cause of dementia.

Researchers discovered that just 12 minutes of walking, or other exercise, reduced glutamate levels by 29%. They also found a metabolite associated with liver disease and diabetes dropped 18% while another metabolite known to attack fat stores increased 33%.

This rather brief burst of walking or other exercise significantly affects the level of metabolites that governs bodily functions such as insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation and longevity.

Armed with this important information, a daily walk of 12 minutes is extremely beneficial for health.

The study found that the best 12 minute walk to enhance health was a brisk or vigorous one.

Take a 12 Minute Walk pond
Take a 12 Minute Walk – standing by the pond

Take a 12 Minute Walk Tips

Walk briskly, building up stamina over time. A brisk or vigorous walk is characterized as taking 100 steps per minute.

Start by setting a timer on your phone for 60 seconds and then counting steps until you reach 100. Try picking up the pace if the timer sounds before reaching 100 steps.

Build up speed by alternating brief bursts of acceleration with regular walking. Do 15 second bursts of speed, then 30 seconds, then 60. Then return to normal walking for one to two minutes. Repeat.

Walking correctly with the right posture helps in walking faster. For tips, read the post Improve Your Gait.

Time a 12 minute route in your neighborhood or at a favorite park or walking location so you know exactly how far to walk.

Then set apart a time to walk. Early morning person? Walk before breakfast. More of a night person? Walk in the evening. Twelve minutes is a very doable amount of time to set aside for something as important as better health and wellbeing.

Wear sunscreen and sunglasses. And take along a container of water to stay hydrated.

Take a 12 Minute Walk happy
This painted rock on the sculpture made me smile. Happy? Yes, happy to take charge of my health.

Taking a 12 Minute Walk

My days are very full right now. However, I know walking is crucial. This chapter reminded me of just how important it is to make time for walking and other forms of exercise, daily.

I chose nearby Mercy Park for my first 12 minute walk. The park just added seven new sculptures to the grounds and I was eager to see them.

During my walk I alternated brisk bursts of walking with normal walking. I’ll have to work on improving my speed.

After my brisk walk, I made another, slower loop around the park so I could take photos and admire the sculptures. In spite of the heat, a steady breeze helped keep me cool and a fine mist off of the pond fountain was refreshing as well.

My intention is to take a 12 minute walk every day for the next 30 days and beyond. I’ll do a follow up post to share the results!

Take a 12 Minute Walk reflection
Take a 12 Minute Walk – beautiful reflection

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, in all kinds of weather, then this book is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And my Walk in the Cold at this LINK. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And watch for future posts. I’ll share highlights of some of the walks.

Are you ready to take a 12 minute walk this week? Where will you walk?

Take a 12 Minute Walk mural
At the end of my 12 minute walk.

 

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

Improve Your Gait

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

This week’s walk, from the book 52 Ways to Walk, intrigued me. I’ve experienced issues with my walk since my toddler days.

I toe in, a condition that others jokingly called “pigeon toed” during my childhood. As a tiny tot barely mobile, I wore braces on my feet at night, in an attempt to point my feet outward rather than inward. They didn’t work, because it’s a hip/leg connection problem, not a foot one.

I broke my right leg twice and surgery removed a benign tumor from that same leg, all by age five. Those incidents required hip to toe casts and later a walking cast, which severely hampered my activity level for a while.

And a serious car accident in my late 30s injured my low back and began a 20 year journey of unrelenting pain, stiffness and inflammation in my back and legs. Eventually, I used a cane to walk and faced the prospect of using a wheelchair. Thankfully, a plant based lifestyle ended the pain and inflammation and greatly reduced the stiffness in my legs.

All of those situations throughout my life has left me with a walk that is less than perfect. Although I’ve accepted my unique stride, I welcomed the challenge to be more mindful as I walk.

This Walk #2, Improve Your Gait.

Improve Your Gait title

Improve Your Gait

After Canadian scientists studied 500 walkers, they came to a startling conclusion. With a 70% accuracy, they were able to identify which walkers had early cognitive impairment, just by watching their gaits.

Their findings agree with earlier studies. Our walking gait, at age 45, can predict our chances of getting Alzheimer’s. The takeaway: how we walk provides a hint about the health of our brains. The question scientists are still studying…does gait affect the brain? Or does the brain affect the gait?

The Long Term Effects of a Sedentary Life

One of the factors contributing to cognitive decline and the need to improve gait is a sedentary lifestyle.

We sit for long periods of time, so much more than our parents and grandparents did.

Our bodies lose strength, balance and flexibility due to hours hunched over a laptop followed by evenings camped out on the sofa. For some women, add in tight, ill fitting albeit fashionable shoes with high heels and our feet suffer.

Those bones, muscles and joints in the feet get out of whack, tighten up and lose the ability to walk gracefully and smoothly.

Sports scientist Joanna Hall also believes that a sedentary lifestyle affects HOW we walk. Sitting for too many hours every day shortens and tightens the hip flexor muscles and encourages the abdominal muscles to slacken.

Leaning over computer keyboards forces the neck and head forward, unnaturally, restricting back muscles and tightening the spine. And poorly fitting shoes cramp toes and stiffen the joints and muscles of the feet, causing us to walk with a flat plod that Joanna calls a passive foot strike.

So is it important to improve and correct gait, even if we’ve been walking since age one? Yes!

Improve Your Gait stance
I’ve paid attention to my walk this past week.

Tips to Improve Your Gait

Joanna, who works with people helping them with gait, recommends relearning how to walk properly to avoid injury and joint pain and to enable us to walk faster and for longer periods of time.

Her tips include:

Pushing off from the back foot, using the muscles in the back of the legs.

Rolling through each foot, from heel to toe, using the toes to power us forward.

Lifting the ribcage and lower back to strengthen abdominal muscles and create space in our core.

Lengthening and straightening the neck which frees the spine to move as we walk while relieving stiffness in the neck and shoulders from hunching over a desk or computer.

Swinging arms freely from the shoulders as we walk. Hands should be relaxed, not curled into fists.

Look 10 to 20 feet ahead and use the eyes to look downward, not the head.

And swivel hips slightly, which boosts power to the stride. Focus on shorter steps, so as not to overextend the legs, however take more steps.

Wear properly fitting shoes.

Improving My Gait

Walking comfortably is important to me, as is endurance. When I travel I love to walk all over a city or area, exploring and taking photos, learning the history of the location and getting a feel for the culture.

An improved gait helps create a smooth walk and also increases the ability to walk faster, longer and farther. This is exactly what I desire.

For the last week, I’ve mindfully noticed how I walk. I’m implementing the tips, one by one, noting how an improved gait feels.

As this chapter in 52 Ways to Walk suggests, ingrained poor walking habits can shift, with “a little work”. I’m discovering this is true.

Improving my gait felt a little awkward at first. And seriously, my legs muscles became sore. That means I’m using muscles in different ways than I did before.

Overall, I like what I’m experiencing. I stand taller. I’m more mindful and aware. As my leg muscles adjust to my improved gait, they will grow stronger and perhaps, less stiff.

I’m excited to see how I’m walking…and feeling…in a month.

Improve Your Gait library
Improving my gait at the Joplin Public Library, where I snapped photos.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, in all kinds of weather, then this book is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And my Walk in the Cold at this LINK. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And watch for future posts. I’ll share highlights of some of the walks.

Have you ever consciously thought about your gait and the way you walk?

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

 

Walk in the Cold

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

I admit that I am not a fan of cold weather. Normally I choose to stay indoors when temperatures dip into the 30s and lower.

However, on my December trip to Edinburgh, Scotland I knew I’d better change my mindset. I didn’t travel to Edinburgh to sit inside my temporary apartment. No. I traveled to Edinburgh to attend the city’s Christmas Market and to explore the city on foot.

It was fun to combine that trip with one of the walks from 52 Ways to Walk, the book I purchased last year.

This is Walk #1, Walk in the Cold.

Walk in the Cold title

Why Walk in the Cold?

Some people love the winter season and absolutely enjoy spending time outdoors in spite of the colder temps. In fact, those people feel exhilarated by the brisk air.

I’m not one of those people, or at least, I wasn’t. No, I’m more a snuggle up indoors person waiting for winter to shift into spring.

For many years however, I wanted to explore my favorite city during the holiday season and experience the Christmas Market. I researched the weather in Scotland during December and watched the forecasts on the Weather App. Expected day time temps were expected to hover in the mid 30s with night time lows in the 20s. That’s below average temperatures for Scotland in winter.

I adjusted my attitude about the cold, read Week One, Walk in the Cold in my book and prepared for those low temps by purchasing the proper clothing and outerwear. (Read about the essentials for cold weather that I traveled with HERE.)

I discovered there are benefits that come from spending time in moderately cold temperatures. Check them out.

Walk in the Cold coat
For my daily walk in the cold in Edinburgh, warm layers and a heavy coat kept me comfy.

Cold Reduces Inflammation and Pain

We know this is true. Injuries such sprains respond well to an ice pack. The cold eases painful muscles, joints and tendons while reducing inflammation and swelling. Cold also raises the levels of adiponectin in the body, a protein that combats inflammation.

Cold Increases Fat Burning

The body has stores of brown fat tissue, which is different from white fat. Brown fat burns calories and uses energy, essentially turning calories from food into heat. Cold increases brown fat activity and raises metabolism.

Researchers studying brown fat found that it also contains mitochondria, tiny factories inside the cells that convert food and oxygen into a form of energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP supports all the processes in the body, regulates appetite, improves insulin sensitivity and stops the premature death of cells.

Walk in the Cold boots
Walk in the Cold – keep feet warm and dry with wool socks and sturdy boots.

Cold Strengthens the Nervous System

An increase in fat burning modulates the sympathetic nervous system. The colder temps act as a mild workout for the nervous system, which in turns adapts and grows stronger.

The brain functions better as well, during colder temperatures. The brain needs glucose and when glucose is low, the brain becomes sluggish. That’s why we think more clearly when exposed to cold rather than heat. The body uses more glucose to cool down than it does to heat up. Studies found that we think more clearly, decisively and calmly when in cooler temps than we do in warmer temps.

Cold Improves Mental Health

Spending time outdoors, during cold temps, has powerful restorative and revitalizing effects. The cold calms the nervous system while slowing and steadying the heart rate, easing anxiety and stress. We build endurance as well, without requiring the body to work so hard.

Walk in the Cold st andrews square
Walk in the Cold – St Andrew’s Square, Edinburgh

Tips for a Walk in the Cold

First, we are talking about walking in moderate cold with temperatures above 0. Anything below that is considered extreme cold and great care should be used when outdoors in those temps.

Dress in layers to keep the body comfortable without sweating. The hands, feet and head cool down first so wear gloves, thick woolen socks, boots and a cap on the head. Make sure boots have adequate tread on them to prevent slipping on ice and snow.

Keep the body hydrated. Carry water or even a warm drink in a thermos. Caffeine, found in coffee and some teas, actually spurs on brown fat activity.

Fuel the body with frequent highly nutritious snacks or small meals. We burn more energy while out in the cold. The body needs the extra fuel.

Walk briskly. We use our arms for balance so keep gloved hands out of pockets. Use a walking stick to navigate slick areas and step sideways on stairs and when going downhill.

Walk in the Cold castle
I carefully climbed many stairs, some coated with a thin layer of ice, for this incredible view of Edinburgh Castle.

My Walk in the Cold

I spent a week in Edinburgh, walking in the cold daily. And you know what? I came to deeply appreciate my cold walks.

I dressed properly. I carried snacks and water. And when necessary, I walked with care in icy places. Every moment spent in that magnificent city was wonderful and the cold didn’t deter me at all.

My daily routine included breakfast in my top floor apartment (Check out CoDE Boutique Hostel), a morning spent exploring, lunch at a vegan restaurant and then more walking until dark, which occurred about 3:30 in the afternoon. Yes, the Scottish days are extremely short during winter. I ate dinners that I prepared in my apartment.

Some days I headed back to my apartment shortly after darkness fell. Other days I attended scheduled events such as Christmas in the Botanics at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. And some days I just enjoyed wandering Edinburgh’s cobbled streets after dark, taking photos and marveling over lighted Christmas displays.

My last full day in Edinburgh was the coldest. Temperatures never rose above the low 20s. After days of walking in the cold though, my body acclimated and I like to think my brown fat was firing away! I did well that day, exploring Dean Village, strolling through the Christmas Market and saying goodbyes to beloved places in the city.

I did indeed feel energized and revigorated. And I learned that I can tolerate the cold and not only that, I can enjoy the outdoors in chilly weather.

Walk in the Cold circus lane
One walk in the cold took me to a new to me area in Edinburgh…Circus Lane.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, in all kinds of weather, then this book is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And my Walk in the Rain at this LINK. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk. And watch for future posts. I’ll share occasional highlights of some of the walks.

Do you enjoy walks in the cold?

Walk in the Cold Edinburgh

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

Walk in the Rain

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

When the weather turns rainy, we often use that as an excuse to stay indoors. I know I love catching up on reading and drinking a cup of hot tea while listening to the rumble of thunder and splatters of rain against the windows.

However, getting out into that rain, whether it’s a downpour or a light misting, brings a host of benefits.

For walk number 12, in 52 Ways to Walk, I enjoyed not one, not two but four consecutive days of experiencing those benefits. As an added bonus, I did so in the company of my grandson, Dayan, in a new to me city, Washington DC.

This is Walk in the Rain.

Walk in the Rain title

Why Walk in the Rain?

Walking in the rain is a physical experience that allows us to literally feel nature against our skin. The rain surrounds us, fills our senses and awakens us to a greater awareness of our bodies.

Check out these reasons to pull on your boots and head outside the next time it rains.

Health Boosting Compounds Released

The pounding rain and increased moisture in the air releases very specific compounds that mix with the air we breathe. Inhaling this compound rich oxygen creates a heightened sense of well being. That upward tick in mood helps to lower stress, shift perspective and clear the mind.

Walk in the Rain rainy day
Walk in the Rain – rainy day in DC

Awakens the Sense of Smell

Rain washing trees, flowers, shrubs and grasses releases their unique scents. Those intoxicating fragrances, says Scottish writer and walker Nan Shepherd, can leave us “as good as drunk”!

Have you ever walked right after a rain, and smelled the clean, loamy scent of the earth? That scent actually has a name, coined by two Australian mineralogists: petrichor.

The rain creates many fragrances as it disturbs molecules on all kinds of plants and other surfaces. In urban areas and cites, rain releases the stored scents in rock, stone, bricks and concrete.

Cleanses the Air

The air is always fresher after a rain. That’s because the falling drops wash away pollution. Each drop attracts hundreds of pollutants, including dust, dirt, soot and other particles, scrubbing the air clean.

During and after a cleansing rainfall, everything looks different. Tree trunks and branches glisten, flower petals look dewy, colors seem brighter, streets and sidewalks appear fresh. Observing these cleansing changes increases levels of dopamine, the “feel good” hormone.

Walk in the rain showers
Walk in the Rain – showers release scents into the air

Increases Negative Ion Count

Additionally, rain raises the negative ion count in the air. Scientists believe the higher negative ion count improves cognitive performance, longevity and overall health.

We also burn more calories when we walk in the rain. Why? Walking in cooler, rainy weather requires more exertion, which uses up fuel in the way of calories.

Tips for a Walk in the Rain

Purchase water proof or water resistant garments including a jacket with a hood and pants that are snug around the ankles. A rain poncho works well too.

Water proof shoes, boots or rubber galoshes help keep feet dry and comfortable. Make sure shoes or boots have traction on the soles to prevent slipping on rain slick surfaces.

And if desired, especially in heavier rainfall, grab an umbrella as you head out the door.

Walk in the Rain lafayette park
Walk in the Rain – Lafayette Park in DC

My Walk in the Rain

I flew into Washington DC on a Friday morning and left late Monday evening. Rain fell every day, sometimes lightly and sometimes with more force. Temperatures steadily dropped lower each day until the highs only reached the low 50s on my last day in the city.

And you know what? The rain did not stop my grandson and me from exploring the city every day. We sometimes ducked into a museum for an hour or two, to dry off. Primarily though, we walked in the rain, jackets zipped up and an umbrella tucked into my Mary Poppins style bag for when the showers became unrelenting.

I loved the whole experience. At night I fell asleep in my hotel room, listening to the low growl of thunder and raindrops dancing against the large window of my fifth floor hotel room. And during the day I got to know DC with Dayan as an excellent guide. Fortunately, daylight brought overcast skies and rain only. Lightning never forced us to take shelter.

Those four days of walking in the rain with my grandson, visiting monuments, historical sites and museums and trying new restaurants created memories I’ll cherish always. I left DC feeling truly refreshed and invigorated.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, then this book is for you!

The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. I intend to continue selecting different walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk by clicking this LINK. And watch for future posts. I’ll share occasional highlights of some of the walks.

Tell me in the comments below about a walk in the rain you enjoyed recently!

Walk in the Rain wet pavement
Walk in the Rain – wet pavement in DC

 

Rainy Day Finds from Amazon:

 


 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

 

Walk with Your Ears

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Do you know that one of the main stressors in our lives is noise?

From traffic sounds to construction work to people talking to loud music or the television blaring in the background to the constant ding and chime of our electrical devices, we are bombarded daily with noise.

My activity this week, from the book 52 Ways to Walk, led me to a stroll through nature with the goal of disconnecting from all the noise in my life.

This is walk number 14, Walk with Your Ears.

Walk with Your Ears title meme

Bombarded with Noise

Noise is a by product of our lives, especially for urban and city dwellers. Various studies show that city noises result in an increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Exposure to noise also elevates stress, creating inflamed blood vessels which raises the risk for stroke.

Studies of schools near busy airports found that students tested more poorly in cognitive and literary skills than those not near an airport. The World Health Organization believes that traffic noise alone contributes significantly to the loss of a healthier life. And even in a deep sleep, noise affects heart rate and blood pressure.

A study at Brighton and Sussex Medical School monitored the heart rate and brain activity of healthy adults as they listened to a variety of sounds. The brain region that’s active when we are resting and relaxed, referred to as that default mode, changed according to the sound listened to.

When participants listened to ocean waves, their brains switched into an outward focus of attention. Traffic sounds caused the brain to focus inward, in a state observed in people with anxiety, trauma and depression. And interestingly, the participants bodies followed their minds. In a more relaxed state their heart rates slowed, muscles relaxed and their digestive systems worked better.

Walk with Your Ears path
Walk with Your Ears – walking in the woods near Shoal Creek.

 

Walk in Nature

The answer to all the noise in our lives, is to take time frequently to walk in a quiet, natural area. Nature sounds bring powerful healing to the body, reducing stress and anxiety, lowering cortisol levels and boosting overall health.

The following nature sounds seem to positively impact health the greatest:

  • birdsong
  • moving water in a river or the ocean
  • rustling tree leaves
  • silence
  • twigs snapping underfoot
  • animal sounds
  • wind whistling through the trees
  • rain falling
  • acorns hitting the ground
  • squelching mud

And experiencing these sounds outdoors is better than listening to recordings of nature sounds. People report feeling happier and more relaxed after walking in nature, verses listening to an app with nature sounds. Additionally, the activity of walking contributes to the powerful effects of listening to nature.

Walk with Your Ears creek
Walk with Your Ears – stopping by a gurgling creek.

Tips for Walking with Your Ears

Following your ears as you walk in nature guides you to fresh experiences and an outwardly directed focus.

Choose an outdoor area away from traffic and city noises, preferably with trees and a river or stream nearby.

Walk alone, so that other than nature sounds, you walk in silence.

Listen for nature sounds such as birdsong, animal noises, water gurgling over rocks and the wind shushing through the trees. This is called susurration, which is defined as a whispering, murmuring or rustling sound.

Cup your hands around your ears, to amplify sounds around you.

Close your eyes occasionally, to turn focus from the visual to the auditory.

Follow a nature sound that you hear, to see where it leads.

Record your walk, catching some of the sounds you hear, to replay later.

Walk with Your Ears river
Walk with Your Ears – Shoal Creek

My Walk with My Ears

I chose a wooded area south of my city, for my walk with my ears. The Shoal Creek area offers walking trails along the river and paths through the woods, making it an ideal location for this activity.

There were other people around, walking dogs, jogging along the paths and playing in the river. However the walkers passed by with a smile and a nod and my walk took me deeper into the woods, where it was quiet except for birdsong, insect noises and the gentle breeze moving through the trees.

Near the river I discovered that one animal noise is somewhat annoying…the incessant barking of a dog. I’m an animal lover, however when out walking for the benefits it brings, a barking dog is low on my list of what I hope to experience. Fortunately, away from the river, I couldn’t hear the dog.

The auditory focused walk soothed my body, which felt tired after a very busy week. I loved the sound of the breeze stirring the leaves and listening to different bird calls and insect sounds. The cicadas sang their undulating song of summer while crickets chirped. I heard small animals rustling in the underbrush although I never saw them. And I stopped to talk to my old friend, Oak Tree.

I left the woods and the creek refreshed and feeling happy.

You can watch a ten second video of my nature walk HERE.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

Is walking an important form of exercise and relaxation for you? Then you would enjoy this book as well. The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. Throughout the next year, I intend to randomly select walks from the book.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk by clicking this LINK. And watch for future posts. I’ll share occasional highlights of some of the walks.

Do you have a quiet, nature area to walk in?

Walk with Your Ears me
Loving the Walk with Your Ears activity!

 

Walking in Nature finds from Amazon:

 


 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

 

Walk Backward

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

I recently shared about the book 52 Ways to Walk. You can check out a review of the book HERE.

Although I’m excited to try out all 52 ways of walking, as suggested in the book, I found myself derailed.

I initially selected, randomly, a walk with others activity. And then the weather turned incredibly hot with temps at or above 100 degrees daily. Excuses, excuses.

Eventually I found a group to walk with and I’ll enjoy that shared activity with them soon. For my first walk from the book, I chose this one: #49 Walk Backward.

And yes…it is exactly what it sounds like!

Walk Backward title meme

Why Walk Backward?

There’s a fun story behind this walking activity.

In 1931 a Texan named Plennie Wingo decided to walk backward around the world. After practicing for six months, Wingo set out from Santa Monica, California with a stout walking stick for balance and tiny mirrors attached to his glasses so that he could see behind him.

Wingo walked backward across the US to Boston, Massachusetts. He sailed from Boston to Germany and continued his backward walk. Although he was jailed in Turkey, Wingo eventually completed a walk of 7,000 miles…all in reverse. He gained recognition as the Guiness record holder for “greatest extent of reverse pedestrianism” and lived to the amazing age of 98. Wingo attributed his good health to regularly walking backward.

The Health Benefits of Walking Backward

It seems that Wingo discovered a truth.

According to recent studies, the best way to improve walking forward is to occasionally walk in reverse. Doing so strengthens the lower body while improving balance and stability.

Plus when we walk backward without using our eyes to see ahead, we learn to rely on something called proprioception, a system of neurons embedded in our joints, muscles and limbs that work with our senses to communicate with our central nervous system and brain.

Researchers speculate that walking backward requires unfamiliar, more complex movements, enhancing proprioception abilities along with balance and perception.

Walking in reverse demands more physically as well as we start on the toes and roll to the heel. (Wingo went through 13 pairs of shoes on his historical walk.) We engage the shin muscles and glutes differently and lengthen out hamstrings.

Backward walking aligns the spine and pelvis, reduces lower back pain, strengthens knee joints and improves stride and gait.

Walk Backward view behind
Walk Backward – my view behind me as I walked

Tips for Walking Backward

Engaging in this activity requires some care. Wingo sprained one ankle and broke the other and he caused a car accident.

For safety, walk in a familiar area that is level and without obstacles. Ask a friend or family member to join you, walking forward and serving as a guide.

Focus on each step, walking slowly and pushing off the toe then rolling to the heel. Let arms swing naturally and keep back straight and head centered.

Keep the walk short if this is your first time walking backward. If you enjoy this activity build up to longer backward walks.

My Experience Walking Backward

I chose my neighborhood for this backward walk. Greg accompanied me as my guide and to offer an arm if I felt unsteady. My neighborhood contains fairly new sidewalks, making a smooth, level surface to walk upon.

Due to the heat, even in the morning hours, we kept the distance short and I didn’t walk backward the whole way. After climbing a hill part way, I turned around and walked in reverse for a while. And then I returned to normal walking for a distance before reversing again.

Immediately I noticed a difference in my lower back and legs. I could feel muscles working in ways I don’t notice when walking normally. Although the distance was just under a mile, I later experienced a bit of soreness in my left leg and foot from the unaccustomed gait. The discomfort quickly disappeared.

Overall, it was a fun and unique experience. And not one person looked at me strangely…well maybe Greg did…and no one ran off the road while driving by due to the unusual sight of a woman walking backward!

To receive the most benefits, I intend to include walking backward as a regular activity.

Walk Backward cindy
Me on number 49 walk backward.

Pick Up Your Copy of 52 Ways to Walk

Is walking an important form of exercise and relaxation for you? Then you would enjoy this book as well. The activities are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. And it inspires me to create other interesting walks as well.

Pick up your copy of 52 Ways to Walk by clicking this LINK. And watch for future posts. I’ll share occasional highlights of some of the walks.

 

52 Ways to Walk book

 

Journey With Healthy Me is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.