My happy walking place – and about a thousand others going by the numbers up here in the past week or so. I love that lockdown re-prioritises peoples health for these short periods – what I’d love to see even more is that stretching into our non-lockdown life. Walking everyday is highly underrated as a healthy activity. Did you know that walking speed is correlated with life expectancy? Although being coached to walk faster doesn’t necessarily help, (the research is based on natural walking speed). But speeding up your walking couldn’t be bad for you could it? No doubt I’m preaching to the converted, but it’s always good to hear important things repeatedly.
Walking works anytime, anywhere. You have your legs – and you are ready to go. You can have cumulative bouts of walking over a day or a week work beneficially for your health. It’s great for your glutes! (Better than running, usually). It can help you improve your body composition – ie. decrease your body fat. Walking is of a low enough intensity to prioritise fat burning over more immediate sources of energy – such as blood sugar. Particularly after meals, walking improves glycemic control, blood pressure and triglceride levels.
Walking can improve balance in older people, and is a form of exercise that mostly all Arthritis patients (all types) can tolerate. From a cognitive point of view – walking is particularly helpful for memory in elderly folks, cognitive control and academic performance in pre-teens, and boosting creativity in the young and healthy. Walking lowers cortisol to decrease stress – and works subjectively to do so as well – people report feeling less stressed when and after walking. A 30 minute walk increases function of your immune system by boosting killer T cells. And in menopausal women – immune dysfunction associated with menopause is negated by walking!
I experience huge benefits from the meditation effect that walking (and running) have. You can do that formally with a walking meditation guided app – or just let the moments outside take you into your mindfulness. Conversely, it’s also great thinking time – a chance to not be distracted from your thoughts – allowing time and focus to figure problems out. Encouraging walking meetings in your workplace or as an option for catch-ups with friends can be an incredible problem solving tool. Getting up from your desk and walking for intervals during the day has also been studied and shown to improve inflammtory markers, oxidative stress and carbohydrate metabolism.
Hope this provides a bit of motivation for you to get out and walk (or run, if it works for you)! Cliched as it may be – 10,000 steps a day is a great aim. If you don’t have a smart watch, your phone does have a step counter (although you do have to carry it around with you for the whole day) which is maybe a good idea until you get an idea of your average. I love Garmin; but Fitbit, Apple and Samsung all do great smart watches. You can get cheaper pedometer bands which are perfect for step counting. Or you could try and keep count in your head…:)