As soon as I read the ‘Walk Faster’ headline, my soul revolts. Then I relent, but only marginally. I relent to the extent of acknowledging the good work Public Health England (PHE) has done in highlighting the ‘inactivity epidemic’ – and proposing walking as the antidote. That’s it though.
As passionate an advocate of walking as I am, I do not believe that walking faster is the solution to our sedentary lifestyle. The only problem that walking faster is likely to solve is poor punctuality – if you’re walking to an appointment and are already late. This is not to deny the health benefits of walking. As listed in the PHE report, walking does lower the risk of:
- type 2 diabetes (by 40%);
- cardiovascular disease (by 35%);
- dementia (by 30%);
- some cancers (by 20%), and
- early death (by 15%).
But I still disagree with PHE on two counts. One: I dislike its view of walking as a means to an end ie improving health. Walking is a worthwhile activity in its own right. Two: I dislike the concept of ‘walking faster’.
PHE notes that ‘our modern, busy lives’ mean that we now walk 15 miles less a year than we did two decades ago. Me being me, I want to know what we’re all so modern and busy doing. Social Media Today has part of the answer. We spend nearly two hours per day on social media. That’s five years and four months over a lifetime. We could walk the Great Wall of China three and a half times during that period. Fat chance.
It’s grimly fascinating to me that we can all find 840 minutes each week to follow our friends on Facebook, yet can’t find 150 minutes to follow the Chief Medical Officer’s guidance and treat ourselves to some moderate to vigorous exercise. The health outlook for millennials must be even worse; according to Social Media Today, that generation spends up to nine hours on social media each day.
This is a pattern that could benefit from being broken; some habits do need a pattern interrupt. PHE doesn’t go down that route. It panders to the pattern instead, producing an app to help people take a brisk ten-minute walk a day. I fervently hope it reduces the inactivity that contributes to one in six deaths in the UK and costs the NHS almost £1bn a year. I doubt it. But I’m in favour of anything that gets people up, out and walking. If you want to try the app, you can download it here.
A healthy life is about so much more than speed; walking too. We all have a natural rhythm when we walk. Finding it, tuning into it, and using it will reconnect us with much that matters: our bodies, our souls, our true selves, our creativity. Walking faster may raise our heart rate, but walking slowly will raise our consciousness. And I speak from personal experience; find out more by joining my Facebook group. Yes, it’s social media. Life can be ironic.
Sue Plumtree says
Beautifully articulated, Elaine! I especially liked your comment, “Walking faster may raise our heart rate, but walking slowly will raise our consciousness”.
By the way, pattern interrupt can be used for every pattern and habit that keeps you in your comfort zone – being a couch potato, eating fast foods too often, playing small or being hyper critical. All these things would benefit from a pattern interrupt!
Elaine Hopkins says
Thanks, Sue. Yes: pattern interrupts are really useful – once we become aware of something in our life that isn’t serving us well, and we decide we want to change it.