I was speechless at recent Public Health England research that found that 6 million adults in England are endangering their health by not taking so much as a brisk walk once a month.
Don’t be one of them – give yourself 10 minutes (or more!) and reap the benefits that regular walks bring:
1. It Promotes Heart Health
Walking has tremendous benefits for the heart: it drops blood pressure, regulates blood sugar, and lowers cholesterol, which are all risk factors of heart disease.
2. It Improves Brain Function
Ever notice how walking clears the mind? It’s more than just a figure of speech. Walking might not raise your IQ, but it does help to improve concentration, focus, and attention span. Exercise increases the level of BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF has been shown to preserve the health of existing neurons and create new ones.
3. It Eases Depression
The best way to turn a frown upside down is to hit the streets with our feet. Exercise in general, and walking in particular, releases endorphins, “feel-good” chemicals, in the brain. (See also: Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Happier)
4. It Improves Bone Health
One of the best ways to improve bone health is to do weight-bearing exercises such as walking. Weight-bearing exercise is any exercise that requires the body to work against gravity.
5. It Burns Calories
It’s no secret that all exercise burns calories. What’s surprising is how many calories we burn just by walking briskly for 10 minutes. On average, we burn about 50 calories for every 10 minutes of brisk walking (depending on your weight).
6. It Helps You Breath Easier
When we exercise, our bodies need more oxygen. This means our lungs have to work harder to deepen and quicken the breath. The more we require of our muscles, the stronger they get. This is also true for the lungs. With regular walking, we increase our lung capacity, and that makes for easier breathing.
7. It Increases Mindfulness
Walking helps clear the mind. It also helps to increase our awareness. When we step outside, we activate all of our senses. We feel the sun and breeze on our faces. We notice scents. We constantly change the scenery in our field of vision as we walk. Rather than
letting the world pass us by, we can take time on a walk to be present and notice our environment. This practice will enrich all of our moments, even after the walk is over.
8. It Reduces Stress
As mentioned above, walking increases endorphin levels in the brain and gives us the ability to take fuller breaths. These two benefits also help us to rid the mind and body of stress. Exercise of any kind drops our level of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
9. It Improves Gait and Balance
We master what we practice. If we practice walking, we strengthen our legs and feet. Strong legs and feet make up the physical foundation of improved gait and balance. The better our gait and balance, the less likely we are to fall and the more likely we are to keep moving. When it comes to physical health, we’re part of a use-it-or-lose-it game. Walking regularly puts the odds of winning this game in our favour.
10. It Reduces Pain
A lot of our physical aches and pains come from underuse, not overuse. When muscles, ligament, tendons, and fascia aren’t used, they get tight. The less they’re used, the tighter they get and that tightness causes a lot of pain, particularly in the lower back and joints. Walking is a gentle way to get moving and keep moving so our bodies stay limber, flexible, and pain free.
Grab a colleague, friend, family member, or your dog and hit the road. It does a body, mind, and spirit good!