“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”
– Henry David Thoreau
One of the reasons my husband and I chose our new neighborhood is its walkability. Walking is an enjoyable way to spend time together and with our dogs. It allows us to meet our more distant neighbors and enjoy nature, such as the killdeer nest shown above.
Plus, research shows it benefits our physical, cognitive and emotional health.
“You’re actually getting, probably, 95 percent or more of the benefits when you’re walking as compared to jogging.”
– Tim Church, Professor of Preventative Medicine
Studies show walking reduces the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, strokes, colon cancer, and non-insulin dependent diabetes. It lowers blood pressure, and reduces pregnancy-related problems, including gestational diabetes. Walking also helps with maintaining a healthy weight and improves balance.
Adding 150 minutes of brisk walking to your routine each week can add more than three years to your lifespan. That’s only a little over 20 minutes a day. You can even split that up into 2 or 3 shorter walks.
Merely walking around for two minutes every hour seems to help reverse the negative health effects from prolonged sitting.
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
A recent Stanford University study found that, on average, when people are walking, they’re 60% more creative than when they’re sitting. Interestingly, this was true whether study participants walked outdoors or indoors on a treadmill.
According to another Stanford study that was published just this week, walking in wild environments boost well-being by reducing obsessive, negative thoughts. In other words, we stop ruminating when we walk in natural areas. Study participants who walked along a busy road, however, showed no improvement in their obsessive thinking.
Studies also show walking improves memory and attention, even slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s. It gives us more energy and better sleep. It eases pain, cheers us up and improves children’s academic performance. It reduces stress as well as the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
“Call it walking meditation or a neighborhood stroll; by whatever name suits you, rediscover the art of meandering.”
– Gina Greenlee
While some people are unable to walk, for most of us, walking is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to exercise. There’s no need for classes or special equipment, and there’s little risk of injury. If you’re out of shape, start out slow.
Walking in nature seems to offer more benefits than walking in more urban environments, but any walk at all is good for you, so get out there and move.
Do you make a habit of walking? Have you noticed any benefits?
If you aren’t able to walk, have you found another activity that provides similar benefits for you?