When I was younger and weighed a lot more, I hated exercise with a passion. It wasn’t fun on any level, since once you get to a certain size, the effort involved in such activities, to say nothing of the bouncing and sweating, are just miserable.
Luckily, I never quite thought of walking as “exercise”. I say luckily because if I had made that association, I might have convinced myself I hated that, too, even though I actually liked it. And while I suppose part of me knew it did qualify, it was easy to ignore that because much of the time, I had to walk. Not being disabled, my feet and legs were required to move me around the house, between classes and school, and get me to the candy store. Refusing to walk altogether was therefore impossible, so it fell outside the forced nature of other exercise, like phys ed class or using the elliptical machine.
This left me open to recognizing something else: walking makes me happy. This was true even during those heavy years, though sometimes for different reasons. As a teen, since I didn’t have my driver’s license and never got into biking, walking was often the only way for me to get away for a while. I needed that time when I could escape my parents’ observation, or walk away before saying something to them I might regret.
More than that, though, walking gives me the chance to get outside of my head and whatever might plague me: sorrow, grief, anger, loneliness, lethargy. It can also help calm me down if I’m overly excited about something. I start focusing on the world around me, and even living in a city as I now do, I am captivated by the nature around me: the antics of squirrels, the play of light and shadow, the changing leaves, gardens and flowerbeds, graceful flocks of pigeons, the crisp white of seagull feathers.
Walking, my mood lifts without any real effort on my part. Even if I have to make myself go outside (I come up with excuses like it’s too much effort to put on shoes and coat, it’s too cold, I have too many other things to do), once I begin moving, the pure joy of it takes over, and I’m glad to be out.
Looking back, I also can’t help wondering if this played a role in my weight loss. I didn’t, after all, go to the gym, take any exercise classes, or buy any home gym equipment. I did have small hand weights that I used a bit, but mostly, I walked. And without even quite realizing it, I walked myself into happiness.