We now know that movement in general—any type of movement—makes us feel better than sitting still. In many hospital settings where long-term care is needed, nurses tend to get their patients up and circling the halls, rather than let them sit or lie pretty much motionless for long periods of time.
Many studies on the factors for happiness (hugging a loved one, petting an animal, exposure to light) list EXERCISE as the overriding #1 avenue toward feeling upbeat, positive and hopeful.
We have been hearing for years now about endorphins, hormones stimulated by movement of our muscles, being released when we exercise. Our natural endorphins actually have a molecular chemical structure similar to morphine.
When we move, we also produce Dopamine, a feel-good hormone. And Serotonin, which is our natural defense against depression.
Exercise stimulates growth hormone and testosterone (yes, we women produce testosterone, too). These are hormones that stimulate cellular repair and help to invigorate the body via muscle growth.
In other words, there is nothing but positive news for our bodies, and in turn our minds, that comes with any movement at all that we do.
But with our walking, there is another aspect of well-being added. There is the cadence, the repetitive swinging of the arms, the rhythmic touching of our feet to the ground. If you don’t know it, you probably take very close to the exact number of steps per minute, per mile. I know if I count out sixty-six steps (using a four-count with left foot first), I hit very close to a quarter-mile. Similar to hypnosis, where an object may swing in front of your eyes in a steady rhythm, or a therapist may count up or down at a metronomic pace, there is something soothing to a repetitive motion. You relax, you let go, you feel pleasure as you create the repetitions. Your entire body is engaged in the pleasure, such as a baby experiences when rocked in a continual tempo.
Yes, a good tennis player probably feels contentment in hitting a steady bounce/hit, bounce/hit series, but most sports, while producing all the happy endorphins, don’t generate the added pleasing cadence that we experience while cycling or swimming or running—or walking.
I have discovered that I most enjoy walks that are uninterrupted by negotiating curbs or uneven ground, not only because I don’t have to worry about tripping, but because my brain feels happy with the steady pace of my soles touching the pavement in rhythm. Just as we feel contentment to hear and sing songs that have a cadence, walking with an unchanging cadence produces that pleasure in our brains.
As we continue to count the ways in which WALKING improves our lives, the rhythmic cadence of walking is yet another thing we can grasp onto as an EverWalk treasure.
I don’t know but I’ve been told
Streets of EverWalk paved with gold
Sound off, One Two
Sound off, Three Four
Sound off, One Two Three Four!
Enjoy your rhythms, everybody!