Moving house twice in a year has also meant changing doctors twice. This has also meant two obligatory appointments for a once over by the Practice Nurse. Both gave me advice on diet and exercise. The nurse at the new practice was concerned that walking is the only form of exercise I take. She recommended I join a health club – one to which she herself belongs. Apart from a gym, she explained, there are exercise and dance classes, yoga and a swimming pool. I’d already heard of the club and I knew that membership comes with a hefty fee.
Maybe she equated walking with stroll. I did pick up a subtle tone of disapproval – the no pain, no gain mindset. But I know from personal experience that pain – i.e. confusing making an effort with overdoing it – can lead to injury, Also, for me, if a form of exercise is nothing but endurance, eventually I dump it. (Or it dumps me with stress injuries)! I’m not against gyms but in defence of walking as exercise I’d like to compare the gym environment with walking.
Very simplistically, I can say that I walk because I like it. In fact my motivation is quite complex – walking is spiritual, artistic, political – but sticking with the pleasure thing for now, pleasure, biologically, comes about through the release into the system of endorphins (endorphin = endogenous morphine or a morphine-like substance originating from within the body). Then there’s noradrenaline/norepinephrine and also serotonin, which is known as the happiness hormone.
Exercise releases these substances into the system, resulting in a naturally arrived at state of well-being, even euphoria. Going through the ‘pain barrier’ is the kicking-in of these substances after a certain amount of physical effort. When I used to run regularly, in my 30s, I had it figured out that to get my high I had only first to endure 2 miles of agony!
The down side of the high is that the morphine-like qualities of these natural drugs also renders one numb to pain and that’s why for instance footballers, will happily play-on after sustaining what later is discovered to be a broken ankle. Very aggressive forms of exercise, therefore, such as encountered in the gym environment, will bring on the high, but can also bring about injury.
Walking will also result in the same uplift of mood, but without the same risk of injury. It isn’t because walking isn’t an aggressive form of exercise. Trail and rough terrain walking aren’t for walking dilettanti!
I believe the high of walking is also a result of the walking environment. You can get high on just being in a beautiful environment, such as The Great Outdoors. Being in nature is natural. It exercises all of the senses. You can’t say that about the gym, with its blank white walls, stark fluorescent lighting and smelly socks.
And The Great Outdoors is free! (Well, as long as we fight to keep our Great Outdoors from being vamooshed by the fat cats of commerce and industry).
As I said, I’m not against gyms, just the idea that walking isn’t a good-enough means of keeping ourselves well and healthy. And wealthier – there are no fees for walking in the countryside.
Defending by words or arguments; said or written in defense. (Wiktionary)