According to scientific researchers, the source that influences our physical health more than anything else is not our diet, not our exercise, not how much we smoke or even how much stress we are under. It’s how CONNECTED we are!
The latest scientific research has found when we are disconnected from important life-giving sources that fill our heart and spirit, such as meaningful relationships with our family, friends and a sense of purpose and a passion for life, our attitudes, motivation to choose healthy behaviors and ultimately our health, suffer greatly.
Are you skeptical? By the end of this article, I hope to help you see how walking (or any other exercise for that matter) joined together with others you care about can dramatically impact not only your relational, emotional and spiritual health, but it can also be one of the greatest motivators to help you get moving, stay moving and live well.
We are better together!
Exercise can obviously benefit your physical fitness. But did you know being fit can improve your relational, emotional and family fitness too?
Studies show that exercise has clear mental health benefits that affect everything from your productivity and relationships at work to your home life and the way you relate to your kids.
5 Ways walking can boost your family’s health and fitness:
- – You’ll Communicate Better. Exercise has been shown to improve our thinking. Aerobic exercise, like walking, in particular, greatly benefits cognitive ability, which improves creativity, helps dust away the cobwebs and allows us to find those words that sometimes fail us.
- – You’ll Communicate More. Walking with your spouse after dinner or your kids on the weekend will help you improve your fitness and strengthen your relationships. A brisk walk is a great excuse for a good heart-to-heart – and it’s heart-healthy too!
- – You’ll Feel Better About Yourself: Research has shown that, along with boosting metabolism, exercise boosts confidence! Improved self-esteem is something others notice. In study after study, scientists have found a significant connection between how we perceive ourselves and the strength and health of our relationships with others.
- – You’ll Be Happier. Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Those endorphins are so powerful; in fact, studies have shown they can even alleviate symptoms of clinical depression. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills! So put on those walking shoes and stroll to a better mood and more positive outlook.
- – You Might Even Be Around Longer. The best part of loving relationships is being around to enjoy them! Canadian researchers found that people who exercise even moderately live a number of years longer (average 2-6 more years) than those who are inactive.
“I personally think that brisk walking is far and away the single best exercise,” Michael Joyner, M.D. Leading researcher in the field of endurance exercise, Mayo G.M. Trevelyan said, “I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.” Researchers agree—walking is the best medicine you can give your body!
Researchers from the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Heart Association, Harvard University, the Mayo Clinic, and a host of additional national and international organizations all agree that walking is one of the best things you can do for your body.
Overwhelming scientific evidence supports the growing number of positive benefits for your body and health by putting one foot in front of the other.
Whole-Body Benefits of Regular Walking
- – Improved eye health—reducing risk of glaucoma.
- – Younger-looking skin.
- – Improved lung capacity.
- – Improved metabolism—manage your body weight and increase your ability to burn fat.
- – Strengthened bones.
- – Increased energy, reduced blood pressure, increased “good” cholesterol and lowered risk of heart disease.
- – A stronger and more toned core, legs, shoulders and arms.
- – Reduced risk of cancer.
- – Reduced arthritis symptoms—relieves stiffness and improves range of motion in joints.
- – Better balance and coordination.
- – Decreased risk of diabetes
- – A stronger immune system.
Combining family, fitness and faith
Over the centuries, the simple act of walking has played an enormous role in the devotional and spiritual lives of individuals all over the world. From pilgrimages to sacred sites, walk and worship time to prayerfully walking the dog around the block, these daily rituals are designed to ease our burdens, boost our spirit, providing comfort, peace, hope and faith to our frequently busy and stress filled lives. Try one of the following exercises with your family:
- – At the beginning and or during your walk, encourage your family to think about all the things in their lives they are most thankful for.
- – Teach your family to sing or listen to their favorite song while walking. Find music that is devotional, worshipful, inspirational or upbeat – something that fills your heart and spirit and boosts your faith and hope.
- – Teach your family to meditate when walking-pay close attention to your breathing, taking pleasure in each breath. Or count your footsteps, counting “one, two, one, two” or recite a prayer or scripture repetitively.
- – Teach your family to pray during your walk together. Nothing fancy needed. Be honest about where you are and what’s going on in your heart.
- – Help our family to take in the beauty of your surroundings. Be mindful. Enjoy all the details of the nature before you.
- – Consider taking a walk to someone’s home or work as a family and perform a random act of kindness.
Researchers from Harvard, Duke and Yale Universities have been conducting and analyzing more than 1,500 research studies on the impact community, spiritual practices and faith have upon health. Overwhelmingly, these studies demonstrate that people who CONNECT in a faith based community regularly and consistently have less heart disease, fewer strokes, lower blood pressure, less depression, faster recovery from illness…and may even live longer.
Thus, studies show our lives thrive when we are deeply connected to our family, friends and faith. When we have support, life is much more meaningful, richer, happier and better when we are together. Fitness is no different. The science is in; the best way to ensure your fitness success is to combine fitness with family, friends and faith. Consider,
- – Scheduling Your Walk. Before the week begins, as a family determine the day, time and location for your walk together. With busy schedules it may be difficult to all walk together two or three times a week, but having something on the calendar even if it once a week will provide you with the support structure to encourage and support one another for the week.
- – Starting small. To encourage family members, keep your walk time short in duration then progress. Begin with a 10-15 minute walk, after dinner (even a short 5 minute walk in between television shows can be a good start). Use this time to share “highs and lows” for the day or ask those in your family to share what they would like prayer for. If your family is larger, partner up and have each person share what they are thankful for, challenged by or something that is on their heart. You’ll be amazed at how much your family will gain from this time together.
- – Scheduling a family hike: Enjoy the great outdoors by getting out a family calendar and scheduling a family hike (once a month, once a week) touring different locations near or around your city. Make it memorable taking pictures of the various locations you visit.
- – Walking in the morning, before or after dinner: While experts agree the best time to exercise is the time you will do it, a morning schedule can be one of the best times to increase your chances of successfully building in time to be active. According to researchers, morning exercisers eliminate the excuse of being too busy, and exercising in the morning helps minimize potential interruptions or other emergencies that inevitably come up during our busy days. But with busy schedules and family needs, morning movement may not be the best option for you and your family, so consider a regular scheduled walk before or after dinner.
It’s true-we are “Better Together”. When we connect an electrical cord or device into an outlet we receive energy and power. Similarly, when we connect to the areas of our lives that bring us faith, purpose, motivation, support, encouragement, hope and love, like being with and moving with our family, we feel hopeful, empowered, and supported. We make positive choices that are beneficial for ourselves and helpful for others. Along with eating healthy, managing your stress, I can’t think of anything more important for your health and your life than to move “faithfully” on a regular basis with your family.