Go to any city or town anywhere in the world and you’ll find people walking around. Only you know where you’re going, but do you know what’s happening to your body and mind when you walk around? Chances are you don’t, at least not to the fullest extent.
Of course, there’s a difference between walking to a destination and just going for a daily walk. You’re more likely to feel the benefits if you’re not looking at a watch every two minutes. Even so, the physical and mental advantages are there.
Walking is often disregarded, not just as a valid form of exercise, but as a form of self-care. It’s a way of keeping yourself active in spite of knee and ankle problems. You can bask in the sun – a blessing when travel in cities is mostly conducted by buses and underground tube lines. The benefits are nearly endless, so here are a few.
The Physical Benefits
When you think of exercise, you likely think of running, cycling, or perhaps weightlifting. Walking can be just as good.
The physical benefits are almost endless. Upon comparing the results of the recent National Runners and Walkers Health studies, researchers were able to find that energy expended in moderate intensity walking and high-intensity running resulted in comparatively similar rates of reduction in risk of potential life-threatening issues such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease over a six year period.
If you just want to stay active and healthy, moderate-intensity walking will get the job done – as long as you expend the same amount of energy, of course.
The physical, potentially life-saving benefits of a daily walk don’t stop there, however. Past studies have shown it can lower your risk of death by a massive 39% when compared against no leisure-time physical activity, as problems such as strokes become less likely among men and women.
Of course, these are more long-term benefits of a daily walk. If you’re looking to turn it into a habit, it’s wise to take a look at the short-term advantages. For starters, with each passing day, you’ll begin to feel fitter as your cardiovascular system improves. This can lead to more longer-lasting energy. Then there’s the views – a daily dose of nature helps you become more acquainted with your area while also forcing you away from a screen, a rare thing in modern times.
The Mental Benefits
When you think of walking, you think of the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other, eating up the ground and taking in the views. However, the mental benefits are just as, if not more immediately prevalent. For example, a study from Stanford University found that walking boosts creative output by an average of 60%. According to the researchers, “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.” This is a process they call “divergent thinking,” a thought process that produces creative ideas through various different solutions.
Put simply, a daily walk can help remove the mental block and offer new ideas and perspectives. After all, psychologists have found that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout for relieving anxiety.
As you’d expect, a daily walk does a lot more than just promoting creativity. It also acts as a mood booster, as one study found that a mere 12 minutes of walking resulted in a valuable increase in traits such as self-confidence and attentiveness. Your environment matters too, as walking in nature is known to reduce over-thinking about negative experiences – something we humans are all too familiar with. As a result, you decrease the risk of depression.
Of course, a daily walk is unlikely to completely alleviate mental wellness issues such as anxiety and depression. It will, however, be a literal step in the right direction. In these instances, it’s important to put one foot in front of the other, taking each day – and each walk – one step at a time.
The Surprising Benefits
An article from Harvard Medical School goes beyond the most obvious benefits of a daily walk, instead explaining the lesser known advantages to your life. Here are some of the best ones:
- As expected, Harvard researchers dove into the science behind walking. By looking at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people, researchers attempted to determine how much said genes contribute to body weight. They found that among those who took an hour-long brisk walk every day, the effects of the weight-promoting genes were cut in half. In conclusion, consistent, purposeful walking is a great tool for weight control.
- Harvard use research from the University of Exeter which found that a small, 15-minute walk helps curb cravings for sweet items such as chocolate. It can even reduce the amount you eat in high-stress situations. So, not only do you get some exercise and fresh-air, you can save money and your sweet tooth.
- It helps ease joint pain, as several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain. Moreover, walking five-six miles a week goes some way to preventing arthirtis from ever taking place. More specifically, daily walking protects the knees and hips.
- It boosts your immune system. While risking the cold of winter on a walk doesn’t always seem like the most inviting idea, it helps protect you during the cold and flu season. A study proved this by assessing over 1000 men and women, finding that among those who walked for 20 minutes a day, five days a week, 43% took less sick days compared with those who exercised once a week or less.
Put it this way, a daily walk has benefits you’ll immediately see, and some you won’t. The mixture of short and long-term advantages is perhaps the best part. The immediacy of the short-term, such as feeling more creative and curbing a sweet tooth, coupled with the longevity of things like increased immune system and easing joint pain, helps make this form of exercise the easiest and most attainable of them all.
In Short, Walking Has Too Many Benefits to List.
So, there you have it. Daily walking has various benefits, a lot of which depend on how often and how long you walk for. Where a 15-minute daily walk will help curb your cravings, it’s unlikely to have as dramatic an effect on weight-promoting genes as an hour-long walk. But the point still stands, a daily walk will have both short and long-term benefits to your mental and physical wellbeing.
There are so many advantages to a daily walk, you’d be forgiven for forgetting some. To save you the trouble of scrubbing along this article, here’s a summary of the best:
- Reduces the risk of life-threatening issues such as blood pressure, strokes, and heart disease.
- Increases your creative output by as much as 60%, as it frees up space in your mind by putting yourself in different situations.
- If out in nature particularly, a daily walk helps decrease the amount you think about negative experiences.
- It boosts your immune system, as a study found that a daily walk led to 43% less sick days among the 1000-strong participants.
- Acts as an anxiety tonic, as researchers concluded a 10-minute walk is as good as a 45-minute workout.
As this article has touched on, the balance between the two, as well as the combined physical and mental benefits make walking the peak all-rounder of the exercise world. Moreover, you likely do it most days anyway, whether you’re walking to the shops or catching a train. The only difference here? Choosing to do it for yourself, instead of viewing it as going from point A to B.
How, where, when, and why you walk will be different for everyone. One thing is certain, though. A daily walk will make your life better in some shape or form. If you can, walk in nature, as not only will you think less about negative experiences, you’ll be more inclined to do it the next day.
If anything, it gives you a chance to get outside and take in some fresh air every day. Something that is missing in the ever-more technology-focused world.