The benefits of walking: mind, body and soul

Rear View Of Family Taking Dog For Walk In CountrysideIn today’s fitness arena the newest is almost always thought to be the best.  I definitely like to feel the burn to know I am getting the job done and this has taken me to everything from barre classes to Pilates to interval workouts all around town.  While there will always be a place for these exercises when you are looking to lose weight or work specifically on certain strengths or body parts, sometimes you need something a little lower impact but packed with other benefits.  An injury after a cycling class forced me to resort back to my old go-to…Walking.

In my mind walking was something done by people just getting back in a workout state of mind.  While some of the low impact benefits do make walking appealing to those who want to take it easy on their knees or hips, I fell in love with some of the other benefits of walking. With high impact exercise off my menu for a while any exercise is definitely better than no exercise.  As many jobs have us sitting all day it is a great way to get on your feet and get moving.  Gymnast girlYou can always modify your work out as well by adding weights around your ankles and/or wrist or picking up the pace.  Also you can mix in some calisthenics like jumping jacks or squats to add some strength training to your walk.

I have discovered through my walks at Hermann Park that the physical benefits are actually at the bottom of the list on why I walk.  Instead it’s the mental benefits that keep me coming back.  Having a chance to get out outdoors, stretch my legs and let the stress of the day melt away under the umbrella of trees.  After a long day it is the perfect break between work and home that delivers you a little bit calmer and better able to give your best self to your family.   It is a chance to reflect on the day before you put the past behind you and to meditate on how you can get better in the days to come.  Most of all surrounded by the miracle of nature it is a great place to just feel grateful.  There is no better reality check from what you don’t have then realizing all that you do and a great way to change your perspective, even after a horrible day.  Especially while the weather is mild, take advantage of a great chance to walk in a park or on a trail in Houston.

Why I Love Tea

Tea setSometimes your day just hits a point where life finally wears you down and to keep on with the day you need a pick me up.  IMMEDIATELY!!!!!  There are solutions all around to give you that dose of caffeine for the stamina to finish out the day, from coffee to energy drinks.  Although options abound, few offer both the pick me up potential and the health benefits associated with tea.  Tea is not the weak alternative for coffee drinks but it harnesses its own capacity to deliver caffeine and an assortment of other health benefits and flavors to suit almost any preference.  There are a million reasons to love tea but here are the reasons I try to keep in stock of this liquid gold:

Take a break to just reflect.   One of the main reasons I drink tea is the process.  Taking the steps of steeping and drinking the tea provides a much need reflection moment in my day.  Now true enough my tea is steeped with the hot water from my Sparkletts cooler but even a short amount of time to slow down and regroup helps me calm my brain in the midst of the storm going on around me.  To have something warm and comforting waiting for me in the middle of the day reminds me that there is more to life than the hustle and bustle.  Remembering that can be the key to sanity in an insane situation.

Pick me Up.  Surprisingly tea leaves have more caffeine in them than coffee beans.  It is the process of steeping that dilutes the caffeine.  To increase the strength for more of a pick me up steep more tea leaves for a shorter amount of time.

Potential Health Benefits: Different teas all pack a different punch when it comes to health benefits, here are just a few

Green tea: Full of antioxidants that can prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract stress, and improve cholesterol levels.  It also may provide some protection against UV rays

White tea: Studied for its potent anticancer properties.  The high polyphenol count has been found to inhibit wrinkle production by strengthening elastin and collagen (i.e. prevent fine lines and wrinkles).

Black tea: High caffeine content but also provides protection from lung damage from cigarette smoke and can reduce the risk of a stroke.

Different variety of flavors.  Honestly there are just too many to count.  I think for a lot of people not knowing what direction is right for them is a main reason they pass on tea when the tea box of flavors come around.   For advanced tea drinkers there are stores like Teavana that specialize in the many different varieties of tea.  The Teas By Flavor page by Teavana is a great way to explore new things you may like.  If you are just breaking into drinking tea here are some tried and true options:

Earl Grey: Combo of black tea and bergamot for a smoky but fragrant flavor.

Jasmine Tea: Super fragrant and flavorful it is made with jasmine petals for a slightly sweet result.

Chamomile Tea: More of a concoction of leaves, herbs and spices this tea still is very soothing and aromatic.

Chai Tea: A fun blend of spicy ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom and finished with almond.  A good break from more traditional tea flavors.

Photo Courtesy of Dimi, Turikish Tea on Flickr