Is Reading While Walking a Good Idea?

Reading While Walking

When it comes to healthy activities, there is very little that can actually take reading on. The numerous mental and physical health benefits of reading are well-known and represent one of the reasons why so many people keep wishing they could just read more. Perhaps one other activity that has similarly numerous benefits while being simple enough not to cause any issues is walking. 

So, since our dedication to reading here at Basmo extends way beyond what is expected of us, we started analyzing what could happen if we mixed the two together. Reading while walking might sound silly or even dangerous, but we were surprised to find out how many people actually do this and how beneficial it can be.

Is it Possible to Read While Walking?

Reading while walking is certainly possible. They are both relatively simple activities we get used to from a very young age. As adults, most of us have decades of experience both in walking and reading, so it’s relatively safe to assume that we can easily do both at the same time.

The activities are mainly coordinated by completely different areas of the brain so the interference should be minimal in terms of concentration power. The only important part of our body that is actually shared by both activities is our vision and this is where things could go wrong if we do our reading while walking outdoors. Of course, that can be easily fixed by simply reading while walking on a treadmill. That way you eliminate the risk of not seeing an obstacle and hurting yourself just because you had your eyes buried in a book instead of looking where you are going.

Why Do People Read While Walking?

While combining reading and walking never crossed my mind as a potentially beneficial activity, the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. There are many reasons why reading while walking along can be more relaxing and more beneficial than doing any of these two activities separately. 

Here are some of the most important reasons why people choose to read while walking and why that may be the best idea you’ve heard this year.

Time-saving

Time has become our most important and valuable resource these days. And since we are all living hectic and generally super-busy lives, we need to constantly come up with ways to improve our time management. Everything these days seems to be focused on speed. From insanely intense exercise programs designed to help you achieve the same results in 1 hour you would normally achieve from regular training in 2 or 3 hours to the fastest rate of information sharing in the history of mankind, everything seems to revolve around our need to squeeze in as many activities as possible in as little time as possible.

So, why wouldn’t we combine two of the most natural, easy, and rewarding activities and do them at once? Instead of taking a one-hour-long walk and then spending another hour reading, who says we can’t do them both in the same hour? We just saved one hour in our day. 

Exercising

Our daily routines have a tendency of promoting a sedentary lifestyle. We can order at home anything we want, we can Uber anywhere instead of walking, and according to the American Heart Association, there’s been an 83% increase in sedentary jobs since the 1950s.

A sedentary lifestyle, as comfortable as it may seem, has a lot of associated risks: from heart disease to obesity and diabetes. And what’s even worse, our favorite hobbies or choices in entertainment seem to promote the same sedentary lifestyle. If we go out for a drink, chances are we’re going to be drinking while sitting down, if we watch TV, we do it from the comfort of our couch, and reading is no different.

In order to maintain our health, we now need to make a special effort to work out. We need to take time off our day to go out and exercise. Reading a book while walking suddenly sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? After all, walking does burn anything between 210 and 360 calories per hour, so it is a decent workout for a sedentary person.

While most readers tend to spend hours every day sitting down and reading, a couple of outside-the-box thinkers are doing their reading walking, either on a treadmill or outdoors. 

Memory improvement

The fact that reading has a beneficial role in improving and maintaining memory function even in our late years is well-known. A little less-known fact is that walking has a very similar effect.

The brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), also known as abrineurin is a protein that has the role, among others, to support the survival of the existing neurons, while also aiding the growth of new ones.

Interestingly enough, while reading is a great workout for the brain and has a ton of benefits on mental development, delaying cognitive decline in old age, and improving memory by providing the equivalent of a good cardio session for our brain, walking has been discovered to actually increase the BDNF levels which help keep our neurons alive.

Combining the two (walking and reading) in a single one-hour activity suddenly seems like an unmissable opportunity. 

Better peripheral vision

Our peripheral vision is extremely important and plays a huge role in our survival. Even though the dangers we are currently exposing ourselves to are a lot different from the ones the prehistoric man had to face, our peripheral vision can still get us out of potentially very unpleasant situations (seeing that a car is not going to stop at the red light for example).

Walking while reading forces us to use our peripheral vision more than we usually do. While we focus our vision mainly on the text we are reading, we are also forced to see where we are walking. That’s a great way to train our peripheral vision.

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Is it Safe to Read While Walking?

Well, that depends a lot on where you are doing your walking. Reading while walking to your job in the morning, through other pedestrians and traffic is generally not a very safe choice. 

As long as you plan your reading and walking sessions accordingly and choose either a time of day when most people are indoors, or you find a very quiet and secluded path with few or no obstacles, you can say that reading while walking is a pretty safe activity. With no other pedestrians or cars part of the equation, the worst thing that can happen is to trip and fall or to hit yourself on an obstacle you didn’t notice. While that can be unpleasant, we have to admit that we are exposing ourselves to much bigger dangers in life, more often than not for things that aren’t even as important as reading or taking a walk.

Obviously, the safest choice would be to do your walking on a treadmill and read throughout your workout. Whether you do it at home or at the gym, the only disadvantage you are going to have to learn to live with is the fact that you won’t get the same satisfaction as you would from an outdoor walk, in the fresh air. It’s up to you to decide what is more important for you: staying completely safe from injury or breathing in some fresh air while doing your walk and reading session.

Is reading while walking bad for eyes?

No. Your eyesight is not likely to be affected by reading while walking. Permanent damage is completely out of the question, but you should take note of the fact that sometimes reading while moving (whether it’s walking or while you’re being driven around in a car) can have a couple of negative effects.

Your eyes are going to have a harder time than usual maintaining focus and following the text, which can lead to fatigue with a quicker onset than you’re used to. You can get a bit of discomfort in your eyes, some itchiness, an inability to properly focus, teary eyes, or, in the worst case scenario, a headache. It’s really not that bad, considering the benefits. Also, all these symptoms I listed above are easily fixable or even preventable through some rest and well-planned breaks.

How to Read While Walking?

Now that we made reading while walking sound so appealing, it would be rude of me not to share a couple of hints on how to do it properly and safely.

Plan ahead

Ideally, all your reading and walking sessions should be planned. You should know where you are going (after checking the place out first), you should know how many people are usually there and what the best times for this activity would be in terms of crowds and lighting (going for a walk in the middle of the night just because you know you are going to be alone is not going to work very well in the dark).

With Basmo, you can set a clear reading schedule in just a couple of taps.

Our reading tracking app is designed especially to meet every single need of a modern reader, and believe it or not, that includes walking and reading at the same time.

That being said, planning your sessions with Basmo is going to be extremely easy and effective. You can select the days of the week when your reading sessions are supposed to take place and even different times of day for each one, so you can plan according to your weekly routine.

Not only will you have a clear schedule in the palm of your hand, but the app is also going to ensure that you stick to it. You are going to receive notifications before each reading session to remind you that you have an upcoming task to complete.

On top of this, Basmo can also be used to take notes while reading or even keep a reading journal. That way you can easily jot down your thoughts about the walking and reading sessions you just experienced so you remember the pros and cons of each location or time of day that you chose.

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Stay safe 

Needless to say, your safety is of the utmost importance. So, when it comes to reading and walking, safety comes first. Make sure you choose a nice location where your chances of injury are minimal (take a walk in your own garden for example) and a time of day that is ideal for this activity. 

Unless you have superhuman abilities, it would be wise to choose not to read on your morning or evening commute to and from work. Doing this while walking down the street can backfire quite badly when you least expect it. As a matter of fact, I can think of three places you should never do this activity:

  • Places with intense traffic (parking lots)
  • Places with many pedestrians (crowded parks, crowded sidewalks)
  • Markets or supermarkets

Oh, and another thing. Never read while walking up or down stairs. That is a huge mistake, one that is going to be very hard to fix once you’ve lost your balance. And the consequences of falling down a flight of stairs can be quite severe.

Look up

Regardless of how interesting the book is or how confident you feel in your instincts and reflexes, never underestimate the importance of simply looking up for a second and making sure you’re walking the right way or that there are no obstacles on your path ahead.

Final thoughts

Reading while walking can completely change the way you do both. There is a lot for you to benefit from as long as you take into account a couple of safety measures. And with Basmo, you have the best planning tool a reader can ask for.

Image by iwat1929 on Freepik

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