I’m Talking “Walking”

Andrew Siegel MD  5/6/2023

Walking is an underrated human activity that is often taken for granted. Celebrated and applauded when babies transition and evolve from crawling to taking their initial steps, it is mourned for and lamented when disease or infirmity deprives one of its capability as the capacity for being active devolves into a sedentary existence.

I often find myself bounding down the hallways at work, standing tall, chest out, strides lengthy and rapid, swinging my arms, perhaps with some swagger and bounce in my step – it just feels good, and right, and makes me feel alive, well and happy. 

Walking is a gratifying, literally “grounding” and dynamic activity.  It is both healthy and restorative and can help prevent and manage many common health problems.  When I awaken in the morning, my spine stiff from inactivity and at times experiencing some sciatic pain, walking seems to lubricate the joints and alleviate the symptoms.  A walk outside with exposure to fresh air, sunshine, and constantly changing landscapes and a variety of scents is often a serene experience that always leaves me feeling not only energized, but better – physically and psychologically – than how I felt before the walk. Walking forces one to be present and in the moment. When walking I am acutely mindful and aware of the sensations that I am experiencing: the simultaneous warmth of the sun and coolness of the breeze, the sweat dripping down my face, and the pressure of my feet against the ground. While in the rhythm of a walk, my brain seems to shift into a different state of consciousness — more trance-like and dreamy — affording the opportunity for meaningful and creative thinking. Walking is an effective means of keeping at bay the unattractive and six-pack-obscuring abdominal tumescence referred to as a paunch, all too common in middle-aged and older men and women. Walking is as effective an analgesic as ibuprofen for my golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis), probably based upon the release of endorphins and other happy chemicals triggered by the exercise effort. When I exercise in my home gym, my warm up routine is always a preliminary 30-minute walk on the treadmill. It is a perfect prelude to any other exercise routine and functions to warm up the muscles, lubricate the joints, and to get the heart and lungs into gear.

Unlike many athletic pursuits and sports, walking is an equal opportunity, non-elitist activity that is accessible to the entire socioeconomic spectrum and can be pursued virtually anywhere. It can be done at virtually any age, bone and joint wear-and-tear and health-permitting, is easily integrated into one’s day, and requires limited equipment. That stated, a good pair of walking sneakers — not inexpensive these days — is a real asset to walking. I am a big fan of the “bounce” and support of the Hoka brand. When traveling, there is no better way to experience a new location. Walking is a wonderful way to socialize and even conduct business.  How many forms of exercise can be done with three and sometimes even four generations together? It is also a superb activity to do with your canine companion(s), who will joyfully accompany you and be most appreciative. When walking solo, one may simply enjoy the sounds of nature, or alternatively, listen to inspiring music, an audiobook, or a podcast.

Walking Versus Running

Walking is an effective form of low-impact core, strength, and aerobic exercise that is less strenuous and “painful” (psychologically and physically) than running.  Depending upon one’s pace, walking is usually considered a moderately-intensive activity as opposed to running, which, also depending upon one’s pace, is usually considered a vigorously-intensive activity.  During moderately-intensive activity, one will generally be able to carry on a conversation as compared with a vigorously-intensive activity, in which it is difficult to carry on a conversation.  Running is clearly one of the most effective and robust means of optimizing aerobic cardiovascular fitness, and there is nothing quite like a runner’s “high,” if you are capable of experiencing it. That stated, scientific studies have shown that when an equivalent amount of energy (calculated from distance and intensity) is expended, both walking and running provide similar risk reductions in hypertension, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, and possibly coronary heart disease.  If you desire to amp up walking from a moderate to a vigorous physical activity, walk up hills when outside (especially while maintaining a brisk pace) or on an incline when inside on a treadmill. For a look at what physical changes you can make in your body by committing to a 60-minute daily walk up an incline, see the following video: Daily 60-Minute Walk. (Thank you Elias, my practice manager, for bringing this video to my attention.)

Nice walk earlier this week while visiting my father in Boca Raton
Stats from this brisk walk with average pace 14:51

1 MET (metabolic equivalent of task) is the amount of energy (calories) used per minute while resting quietly.  On average, 1 MET for a male is 70 calories/hour and for a female is 60 calories/hour. The following are some typical energy expenditures with walking and running at different speeds: Walking 20 minutes/mile pace: 3.3 MET, walking 17 min/mile: 3.5 MET, walking 15 min/mile 5.0 MET; running 12 min/mile 8.0 MET, running 10 min/mile 10 MET, running 8 min/mile 12.5 MET.  Obviously, one will need to spend much more time walking than running to achieve the same amount of energy expenditure.

Human Skeleton, Lateral View (Close to the Final Study for Table III But Differs in Detail), (1795–1806) drawing in high resolution by George Stubbs. Original from The Yale University Art Gallery. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

Benefits of Walking

Walking provides one with numerous physical, metabolic, and psychological benefits.  Exercise exerts favorable effects on the following: inflammation; metabolism of serotonin and other neurotransmitters; the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis that regulates thyroid, sex, and adrenal hormones; the autonomic nervous system, and on endorphin release.

Physical Benefits

  • Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, many cancers, and death.
  • Disease and weight management, reduces fat, increases lean muscle, revs up metabolism and burns calories.
  • Blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetic management.
  • Improves balance and reduces risk of falls.
  • Improves strength of muscles, joints, bones.
  • Reduces arthritis pain.
  • Stimulates bowel motility and regularity.

Mental, Emotional, and Psychological Benefits

  • Improves mental well-being, self-esteem, mood, decreases stress, anxiety, and depression, and improves sleep quality.
  • Provides satisfaction from sense of mastery of achieving a goal.
  • Enables more creative thinking.
  • Taps into the internal pharmacy, releasing a cocktail of happy chemicals.
  • Reduces risk of dementia.

Ten Motivational Quotes on Benefits of Walking (Source: Center of Advancement of Well-Being, George Mason University)

  • Walking is man’s best medicine.” – Hippocrates
  • I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.” – G.M. Trevelyan
  • Walking is good for solving problems. It’s like the feet are little psychiatrists.”– Pepper Giardino
  • We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slows us down.” – Robert Sweetgall
  • Thoughts come clearly while one walks.” – Thomas Mann
  • The best remedy for a short temper is a long walk.” – Jacqueline Schiff
  • If you seek creative ideas, go walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” – Raymond I. Myers
  • In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
  • Exercise is important, but exercise in a gym is not important. Go and take a walk outside. Skip the umpteenth coffee date and go for a hike instead. Take the stairs. Walk your errands.” – Daphne Oz
  • Walking: the most ancient exercise and still the best modern exercise.” – Carrie Latet
  • People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
  • A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” – Paul Dudley White
  • It is quite possible to leave your home for a walk in the early morning air and return a different person – beguiled, enchanted.” – Mary Ellen Chase
  • I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” – Henry David Thoreau

Wishing you the best of health,

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Dr. Andrew Siegel is a physician and urological surgeon who is board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro AreaInside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community. He is a urologist at New Jersey Urology, one of the largest urology practices in the United States.  He is the co-founder of PelvicRx and Private Gym.  His latest book is Prostate Cancer 20/20: A Practical Guide to Understanding Management Options for Patients and Their Families. 

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Video trailer for Prostate Cancer 20/20

Preview of Prostate Cancer 20/20

Andrew Siegel MD Amazon author page

PROSTATE CANCER 20/20 is now available at Audible, iTunes and Amazon as an audiobook read by the author (just over 6 hours). 

Dr. Siegel’s other books:

THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual, and Urinary Health


MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health

PROMISCUOUS EATING— Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

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One Response to “I’m Talking “Walking””

  1. Brief Summary of “Intuitive Eating” Book | Our Greatest Wealth Is Health Says:

    […] for aggressive or super-rigorous exercise.  The key is to keep moving and avoid being sedentary. Walking is a great form of exercise, especially when it is done at a good pace, including some hills. Try […]

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