By Andi Pyatt

“The Well” is a recurring column to remind us of the power we possess in mind, body and spirit.

Exactly one month ago I opened my eyes and stared at my ceiling. As I looked up, I realized I lost track of the number of days my children and I had been in the house under quarantine. I slowly sat up and swung my legs over the side of the bed. I firmly ran my hands along my quadriceps. My knees were getting big. That was a tell-tale sign that my body was not moving in the manner it was typically accustomed.  I was walking on the treadmill a few times a week, however, it was not enough. My body was not using the energy I gave it and that unused was energy on full display right around my knees.  This was not me. The anxiety and sedentary behavior were more than I could handle.  I knew what I needed to do to reverse what was happening with my body. A few years ago, I ran daily. In fact, I have completed over 15 half- marathons and countless 5k runs. While my mind and spirit wanted to run, my body was just not in the condition for that type of intensity. The years of running caused terrible knee and hip issues. Not wanting to allow my mind to dissuade my body, I decided to go outside and walk while I figured out how I was going to regularly exercise my body in order to use this extra energy. I put on my leggings, fanny pack, earbuds and headed out my front door. I began to slowly walk. Two miles and 45 minutes later I realized the answer was directly in front of me. I would simply take daily walks in my community. There was no need to rush and run due to pandemic life affording me a new relationship with time.  One month and 182.53 miles (the distance from Maryland to New Jersey) later my knees are slimming down, my blood pressure is lower, and my resting heart rate is in the excellent range. 

Andi Pyatt is an educator, entrepreneur, wellness professional, and author. (Courtesy Photo)

With the safety of gyms still a concern for many, walking is an easy and consistent way to keep the body healthy and happy. In fact, it is an ideal way to move. You need minimal equipment while moving with your body’s natural rhythm. Comfortable shoes, a water bottle and a sense of adventure is all you truly need. Walking outside daily supports a healthy weight, increases Vitamin D absorption, strengthens bones and muscles, and improves your mood. In addition, it prevents and improves heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and lowers blood pressure. While we may have the information and the desire to move more it can be a challenge to put them both to use to achieve our goals. The following are ways to walk more throughout your day:

  1.   Invest in in a pedometer or fitness watch. If you are anything like me, I enjoy seeing the steps and miles add up. I use a fitness watch that records my steps, miles, heart rate, time in target heart rate, resting heart rate, and quality of sleep. I even connect with friends through an app connected to the watch which allows for friendly competition and motivation.
  1.   Find an accountability partner. While I enjoy the peace and quiet of my solo walks, I also enjoy having company a few days a week. On the mornings I want to skip my walk and stay in bed longer, it helps to know I am motivating another person who also motivates me. 
  2.   Get a pet. Owning a dog is an automatic way to move more. Both you and your furry friend need outside time. Set a goal to make one of those daily dog walks extra-long. 
  3.   Park farther away from the building. Instead of finding the closest parking spot find the furthest parking spot. The difference in distance may seem small, however, it adds up over time. 
  4.   Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Taking the stairs increases your heart rate and respiration which is a great way to strengthen your heart and lungs. Remember you can always take the stairs  for one or two floors then use the elevator the rest of the way. Work your way up to taking the stairs the entire way. 
  5.   Schedule walking breaks throughout the day.  Create 15-minute walking meetings on your calendar. Sometimes you may be the only attendee. 

I am sharing my story as an example of how one decision and a small shift can make big changes in our health. Over the past thirty days have experienced significant changes in how I feel physically and mentally. My anxiety has decreased. I am breathing deeper and fuller.  My heart feels stronger and my lung capacity has increased. The first day I walked 4 miles while now I walk 7-10 miles daily.  Now is the time to care for our bodies. These small steps add up to huge strides leading to lasting change.  

Andi Pyatt is an educator, entrepreneur, wellness professional, and author (Julia Belle) of the new children’s book, Sunflower’s Breath.  She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology/Neuroscience from Williams College and a graduate degree in Health Science from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.