Of course, you probably know that any physical activity, including walking, boosts your overall health. What you may not realise, is this simple activity you’ve been doing for almost all of your life, comes with a host of physical and mental benefits. We’ve covered some of them below for National Walking Month.
While the physical benefits are what most people automatically think of, the mental boost that can be felt from adding a walk to your daily routine may be more immediate.
One Stanford University study found that walking increased creative output by an average of 60 percent. Researchers labelled this type of creativity “divergent thinking,” which they define as a thought process used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. According to the study, “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.”
But it’s not only your creativity that will benefit from the mental lift. The act of walking is also a proven mood booster. Walking in nature, specifically, allows you head space and has been found to reduce mulling over or dwelling on negative experiences.
There are many reasons to walk. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that sticking to a walking program showed significant improvements in blood pressure, slowing of resting heart rate, reduction of body fat and body weight, reduced cholesterol, improved depression scores with better quality of life and increased measures of endurance.
For most of us workouts and training sessions actually only account for a relatively small amount of our calorie expenditure. We can bump this up by increasing NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis). Walking is a perfect way to do this. Even by simply incorporating it into daily activities and tasks like walking to the shop, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or getting off a stop or two early.
Walking also eases joint pain. Walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them. For anyone suffering from injuries and also the elderly, walking is an excellent activity.
Lastly, walking boosts your immune function and can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women by Harvard Medical School found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.
We hope you’ve learnt something new on the benefits of walking and this encourages you to incorporate more walks into your daily routines.