The Simple Act of Walking Yields Huge Benefits to Health and More

Celebrating the multiple pleasures of putting one foot in front of the other

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by Allison Ross |

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Sometimes the simplest things turn out to have an enormous impact. Vasculitis patients know the value in life’s beautiful details that others may take for granted, such as a stable routine, supportive friends, or a day of the week when our symptoms are quiet. Even though I’ve been in remission since 2013, I still appreciate small joys every day.

I’ve found that walking has become one of the biggest sources of pleasure and health in my journey with an autoimmune disease. Granted, winter isn’t the optimal time to begin an outdoor pursuit if it’s something you’re not used to (or if your unique illness profile isn’t amenable to cold weather). But hey, that’s what gyms and treadmills are for!

We know that getting moving helps us in several ways that are good for our physical and mental health. Sometimes when I feel tired, depressed, or stuck in a rut, I push myself to lace up my sneakers and go outside. It doesn’t have to be structured exercise to make a difference — all it takes is a few minutes per day of putting one foot in front of the other. Feeling good and thinking positively are almost instantaneous results.

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This year, I wrote about salsa dancing, a newfound joy. It’s something I’ve adopted as a weekly pursuit, but it took months of experimentation to become comfortable. Walking, on the other hand, takes no extra mental energy (like counting all those reps while weightlifting) and no special training (like absorbing the philosophy of martial arts), and you don’t need one or more partners (like competing in team sports).

Walking is an activity that’s accessible to most people. The simplicity — and almost mindlessness — of it make it perfect as regular exercise.

Countless studies have been done on its positive effects. But I want to testify about what it’s done for me specifically. I hope you will be inspired by my experience — and perhaps share my perspective with others!


It’s no joke to be stressed when you’re a chronic disease patient. We encounter more different types of stress than healthy folks, and therefore need a different strategy to tackle it. Walking for 30 to 45 minutes a day helps me breathe and mull over daily challenges in a healthy environment, encouraging my heart to beat and my lungs to function so they can both remain strong.

With every year that passes, I develop better tools to manage my stress, but nerves may still bring trouble. So it’s helpful to have a physical outlet when I get overwhelmed.

Anger and frustration

Not everyone deals with the red-tinged monster of anger, but I am one who does. Often intertwined with frustration, anger makes it easy to feel myself tipping out of control, especially on busy days.

Going for a walk allows me to sort through my feelings and let my brain process how to handle them. Usually, as I peel off my parka and mittens, a bit of the anger falls away, too.


Ironically, I’ve found that the less I want to move, the more it helps if I do. At times when I’m struggling to be productive or feel good, getting off the couch is one of the first steps. And it makes sense that I’d experience a boost: The fresh outdoor air combined with an influx of serotonin means I get to enjoy a better quality of life for the rest of the day.


Some people, like me, prefer to walk alone. My pace is quick, and I enjoy the solitude to let my mind wander. However, you might prefer to secure an exercise buddy. Kill two birds with one stone: Check off exercise as well as social interaction during the same activity.

Anyone who owns a dog knows the joy of taking your four-legged friend out on an adventure. The dogs I’ve owned have always been around 100 pounds, so we often go on off-leash hikes that cause less strain on my arms from keeping them tethered. My German shepherd, Odie, turns 2 in January and has a lot of energy to burn. Walking and hiking allow us to explore and enjoy the great outdoors at a pace that suits us both.

The health benefits of walking are clear. Now, get out there and see for yourself!

Note: ANCA Vasculitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.


Mary Nelson avatar

Mary Nelson

Great post about benefits of walking. I too walk. I listen to audible books and this keeps my mind distracted or occupied depending upon the book. Since my GPA has dramatically curtailed my social life, I stay connected with friends my scheduling "walk-talks" where I have an hour visit with a friend via phone while I walk. Perfect way to stay connected and supported by friends AND stay healthy myself.

Judith Moll avatar

Judith Moll

Allison, I want you to know how much your posts and all you do on behalf of Vasculitias patients means to me. I am fortunate to be in remission from GPA currently, like you. But it is so valuable to know that so many of the challenges you write about are mine, too, and the strategies you find helpful are ones I either use or can try. With a rare disease like GPA, we may never meet another person who has the disease we have, but we have the connections you create and that starts to break the isolation.

Many thanks and much gratitude, Judith

Julie Garza avatar

Julie Garza

One of life’s simple pleasures for me is looking forward to your next column, Allison! I really enjoyed this one, as I am an avid walker, usually with my tiny Havanese. Sometimes she rides in her stroller (I love this because then I can go at my own pace) and sometimes a leisurely stroll with her on the leash is just the thing to relax us both.


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