My first day in Rome was filled with a lot of emotions, a lot of exhaustion, plenty of touristy sight-seeing, and more walking than I thought I could do in a day. I still remember the comments of shock as my friends and I stared at the numbers beaming at us blatantly from our health apps. Although we couldn’t believe we had walked twelve miles in one day, our blistered and swollen feet painfully confirmed that we had.
Each day of that first week, I continued to walk anywhere from five to twelve miles, and each day I would excitedly open up my health app to look at the all steps my aching feet took. I live in the suburbs outside of Philly and attend a school with a fairly small campus, so walking upwards of five miles a day is far from the norm for me. Plus, I loathe running, which means I haven’t done a good job of hitting those recommended 10,000 steps a day… until now.
So, what’s the big deal about walking a bunch of miles a day? For me, walking this much has completely altered my perspective on health and fitness. Before embarking on my semester of endless walking, I considered myself in decent shape. I have spent the past three years of my life falling in love with super-set strength training and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). I have learned how to weave this quick, but effective workout style into my daily routine because I love the way it makes me feel (and partly because I know I can eat a little extra dessert without feeling guilty).
But after watching the average amount of steps I walk per week jump from 3,000 to 12,000, I recognize that I have been approaching health and fitness all wrong. Walking maybe seven to ten or even three to five miles a day removes the antsiness that I would begin to feel while sitting in too many classes for too long. And although it took a week or so to adjust to the extra steps and the extra sweat, my body doesn’t feel exhausted at the end of each day. Instead, my legs and heart feel as though they have completed their job. I’m excited to climb into bed each night and know that, as soon as I close my eyes and settle my thoughts, I’ll peacefully drift into a deep sleep.
The three-mile walk to and from school each day gives me time to clear my head, process my adjustment abroad, or catch up with my friends. It has become a part of my routine that I genuinely look forward to. It is also a part of my new routine here that makes me skeptical of the average American’s approach to exercise — I now question why we don’t ingrain walking into our daily lives.
A quick Google search on the effects of sitting for prolonged periods reveals thousands of articles outlining the numerous health risks linked to our tendency to sit throughout the day. I am not a doctor, nor am I certified in any health-related field, but I am aware of the difference I feel from walking throughout my day. The ability to move and have given time each day to do something my body is designed to do is a part of the Roman culture that I am excited to bring back with me to America and add to my understanding of a healthy lifestyle.