If I could have more of anything it would be more connection. Feeling close to and available for the people I am sharing my life with—friends and family—is my personal barometer for good living.
With that aim in mind, my husband and I recently started a new practice that has really brought us closer together. A few Saturdays a month, we get a sitter for our daughters and we head out for dinner. There’s nothing too remarkable about that; we’ve had a regular date night for years. But a few months ago, we added something new: we brought our running shoes with us.
Dinner as usual ensues and then after the check is brought and paid, we return to the car to slip into sports socks and sneakers. And then we start walking, often for miles, sometimes for hours.
As the rubber hits the road, the words start pouring out. We talk during dinner, of course, but there’s something different about what we say when we’re walking. It’s more intimate. It feels like more comes out. And when there’s nothing to say, the silence feels cozy instead of claustrophobic.
At the risk of overthinking this sweet little intermezzo we’ve discovered, I can’t help but be curious about why it feels so good to walk together and why it seems to allow us to access a profounder depth to our connection. It turns out there’s all sorts of scientific data to explain.
Walking lifts our spirits. According to University of Connecticut researchers, a leisurely walk has the ability to boost our sense of well-being and improve our mood.
Walking, even if we’re not holding hands, allows for more opportunity to touch than when we’re sitting across from each other with a dinner table between us. Touch activates oxytocin, known as the bonding hormone, and it allows us to feel more connected, secure and trusting. Researchers have shown that even something as simple as slightly bumping your shoulders against each other while walking can lower blood pressure and increase positivity.
LESS FACE TO FACE
An emerging form of psychotherapy called Walk Talk Therapy is exploring the many benefits of conversation is motion. For starters, it’s easier to open up when you’re not looking directly at someone. And the pauses in conversation can feel less jarring. Sometimes maintaining eye contact can feel strained for some people, so the lack of face time while talking takes the pressure off.
Movement fires up our brain. In a study conducted at Stanford University, researchers found that walking increased people’s ability to think more clearly and come up with new ideas.
And this doesn’t even begin to explore all the physical health benefits walking has on our digestion, balance, coordination and immunity, not to mention our waistline.
I didn’t need the science to make sense of our walks. They feel good on all levels: body, mind and soul. So next time you find yourself with 60 minutes together with your partner, consider trading in your stilettos for your sneakers. You may just find it’s your juiciest date night yet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristen Manieri is the Founder and Editor of Date Night Guide, as well as a prolific freelance writer. She regularly appears on FOX35 Orlando and has been featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine and on Babble.com. Kristen lives in Orlando with her husband, Marc, and her two daughters. Listen to her on The Synced Life, a podcast dedicated to conversations on human connection.