If you think walking is a waste of time, you are sorely mistaken! Exercise has a long list of benefits to improve your physical and mental well-being, and it doesn’t need to be intense or complicated. Regular habits like going for a 30-minute walk each morning and getting 8 hours of sleep on your millet pillow each night can make a world of difference in how you feel. By understanding how walking can benefit your mental and physical health, you may be more motivated to take that lunchtime walk after all!
Physical Benefits of Walking
Walking can have a significant impact on your physical health. From improving heart health to reducing your risk of diabetes, it will work wonders for your body! Here’s what is does..
Increases blood circulation
Good blood circulation is an indication of good health. It reduces your risk of stroke and heart attack and keeps your body functioning as it should. In addition to a balanced diet and restful nights on your millet pillow, walking can help lower blood pressure and enhance circulation. According to the American Heart Association, walking 30 minutes a day can greatly improve heart health!
An analysis of The National Runners’ Health Study and the National Walkers’ Health Study were compared to examine the difference between walking and running. It was found that similar benefits were seen for reducing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes over a six-year period.
Improves bone health
Walking is an excellent low-impact exercise that benefits your joints and bones. Regular walkers have stronger bones and a reduced risk of osteoporosis. In addition, research has found that it is just as good for bone health as other more intense forms of exercise like running or lifting weights. For example, in a nurses’ health study, researchers found that women who walked at least 4 hours a week experienced a 40% reduction in hip fracture risk.
There are many different conditions that can cause chronic pain. These conditions, like arthritis and fibromyalgia, can make it challenging to keep up with daily tasks and get a good night’s sleep (even when using a natural sleep aid!). Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the pain these conditions cause. Experts recommend individuals with these conditions walk regularly. Due to their low-impact nature, they can help improve function and lower pain.
Boosts your immune system
With increasing threats of viruses and illnesses, we need our immune systems to be strong! One study found that you could boost your immune system by walking every day and help your body fight any illnesses. Additionally, research has found that regular walking can help maintain your weight and reduce the risk of diseases like Type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Sleep is critical for your health. We need about 8 hours each night for our mind and body to function and maintain good health (read more on our blog post on why we should at least sleep 8 hours a night). Research has found that walking can help you fall asleep as well as improve the quality of your sleep. A morning walk outdoors can also aid those with insomnia and help set their natural circadian rhythm.
Help you lose weight
Walking can be just as effective at helping you lose weight as running. A certified exercise physiologist at JFK Fitness & Health in New York City, John Ford, told NBC, “I don’t scoff at walking. Walking is the suggested workout over running for many people. For example, those with knee, ankle, and back problems and also for people who are overweight to obese. Walking is lower impact exercise and can be done for longer period of time”.
Mental Benefits of Walking
Just as it can improve your physical health, walking also benefits your mental and emotional health! Here’s how it helps…
Improves memory and recall
You know those days where it seems your memory is slipping? For example, you have trouble recalling the simplest things like a coworkers’ name or an important task. This can happen to all of us. Brain fog or a lagging memory can be caused by something more temporary like a bad night of sleep, feelings of stress, or age. Regardless of the reason, research has found that walking regularly can boost the hippocampus, which plays a role in memory and recall. A University of California study that looked at women over 65 found that age-related memory decline was reduced in those who walked regularly.
Makes you smarter (or at least sharper!)
Imagine how much easier things could be if our brains were sharper and smarter! A great bio-hack for boosting brain power is walking! This becomes especially important as we age as our risk for dementia increases with age. For example, a study published in the Annals of Neurology looked at adults between 55 and 88 years old and found that those who walked 30 minutes as recommended by AHA had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Boosts mood and makes you feel happier
Though you may roll your eyes when you hear it, going for a walk can make you feel better when having a bad day. Research has found that going for a walk outdoors, surrounded by nature, can put you in a meditative state, which can reduce stress, boost mood and make you feel happier.
Regardless of your job, creativity is an essential skill to have! It can help you solve problems and think outside of the box. Walking has been found to increase creativity. A Stanford University study found that going for a walk can increase creative output by up to 60%! The researchers stated that “walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”
Starting Your New Walking Routine
Any amount of time spent walking is better than nothing. For example, just 12 minutes of walking can boost confidence, attentiveness, and vigor. In fact, a group of psychologists studied the impact of exercise on anxiety and depression and found that the benefits of a 10-minute walk and a 45-minute walk were almost the same, both reducing anxiety and boosting mood.
This should help encourage you to get outdoors and go for a walk, even during the winter months. Winter walking is growing in popularity as a way to help fight SAD and improve their health. A study published in the American Journal of Human Biology found that when people walked outdoors in winter weather, they burned 34% more calories than walking in more milder temperatures.
Cooler temperatures can also increase a walks brain-boosting abilities! Research has found that you think more clearly when you are in a colder temperature. So, if you experience a mid-day energy slump during the day, a quick brisk walk can refresh your mind and energize you! Further, if it is a sunny and snowy day, you’ll get increased levels of endorphins and serotonin. As a result, walking outside in the winter can restore your mental health and increase your heart health.
If you are just starting out on your exercise journey, make a plan and start slow. If you have any pre-existing health conditions or illnesses, you should speak to your doctor first. For example, experts recommend that if you have been sedentary for over a year, over the age of 65, pregnant, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or experience dizzy spells, you should seek consultation first. Also, ensure you have the proper walking shoes and clothing. Training shoes that are specifically made for walking and even orthotics can help keep you aligned and reduce the risk of injury. You can also join a walking group or talk to a trainer to help you learn proper posture. For example, you should keep your arms relaxed and shoulders straight.
To help you stay consistent, create a walking schedule. For example, in week 1, go for a 25-minute walk at 6 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The following week you can increase to twenty-five minutes and so on. Additionally, make sure you stay hydrated and stretch after to reduce the risk of cramps or tightness. Walking with a friend or family member can also make you more accountable and make the experience more enjoyable. Alternatively, you could sign up for a charity 5k or 10k walk, so you have something to work towards. If you are looking for a new way to improve mental and physical health, go for a walk! Even if it sounds too easy, you can walk your way to better health and improve your quality of life as a result!