Walking- 10 benefits to walking more
May is National Walking Month, so hopefully a lot of us have managed to get outside more and get those steps in! But the reality is this can be difficult for a lot of people and sadly the way our 21st century environments are shaped, they don’t exactly say ‘Hey Paul, why don’t you go for a nice evening walk?’. It’s more like ‘Hey Paul, why don’t you binge watch the new series of Peaky Blinders’. The human species, however, has evolved to walk and to be on the move throughout the day. Walking every day can come with some incredible health benefits. Here are 10 health benefits from getting those steps in.
1. Extends your life
I’ll start with a biggy- walking helps you live longer and healthier. By increasing your step count and physical activity, it has been shown to extend your life and quality of life. Walking just 1 hour a day can extend your lifespan. By staying physically active you help maintain functional strength and vitality throughout your life.
2. Burns energy
Walking demands our bodies to metabolise energy, just like other forms of exercise. If we’re burning more energy throughout the day, we’re helping ourselves maintain or lose weight. Now who doesn’t like the sound of that! We can burn more energy through walking by changing our walking speed, distance, and terrain.
3. Improves your mood
Outdoor walking can also be helpful to your mental health. It can help reduce anxiety, depression and negative mood. On the flip side it boosts self-esteem, confidence and reduces symptoms of social isolation. Aiming for 30 minutes of brisk walking three times a week will help you go from feeling like Eeyore to feeling like Winnie the Pooh surrounded by honey.
4. Improves your cardiovascular health
That little ticker in your chest is an amazing thing. It’s easy to forget that it is a muscle. By increasing your physical activity through walking, you help train this muscle, therefore strengthening your heart and reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.
5. Improves your immune function
Now I’m not saying that walking will turn you into Wolverine, however, walking is a way to reduce your risk of getting a cold or flu. By regularly being physically active you improve your immune response. Walking at a moderate pace for 30-45 minutes a day can result in fewer sick days at work.
6. Boosts your energy
We’ve all had that afternoon slump. How many of us have opted for the afternoon coffee to give us that ‘hit’ of energy to get us to the end of the working day? Well, it turns out that walking can be much more effective compared to coffee in making us feel more energetic! Walking increases heart rate, blood flow and oxygen around the body. Instead of getting that coffee, why not go for a quick 5-minute walk outside? Or if you really want that coffee, take it outside with you and walk for 5 mins, you’ll feel much more energised compared to coffee alone.
7. Helps better control blood sugar levels
After our meals we naturally have an increase in blood sugar. Going for three short 15-minute walks after each meal can help your body reduce blood sugars levels as effectively as a single 45-minute walk. Not only that but going on an evening walk after your last meal can help stabilise your blood sugars before bedtime, consequently improving the quality of your sleep, which brings us to the next benefit.
8. Can help improve your sleep
Following on from above, sleep is so important to our overall health and wellbeing. Walking gets us outside and being outside gets us exposed to natural light. This is vital for optimal health and sleep, as light acts as information to our internal body clocks. By going for a nice morning walk or an evening walk when the light is warmer it helps align our body clock with the day/night cycles, optimising our sleep and energy levels.
9. Improves connection with nature
Being outdoors and amongst nature is what we, as humans, are meant to do on a day-to-day basis. By walking outside in nature, we help stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system, helping us be calm and relaxed. We also can have a much greater appreciation of nature and how beautiful it is.
10. Improves creativity
We’ve all been in meetings where at the end we think, ‘what have we actually discussed or decided?’ especially in MS Teams meetings. After using MS Teams for more than a year you’d think we would remember to turn ourselves off mute! Where possible, try arranging a walking meeting as being active helps blood flow to the brain, helping improve cogitation. By walking more, we help improve our creativity and improve our performance at work.
Walking comes with so many health benefits and is truly something in the 21st century that we humans don’t get enough of. So, let’s change this! Let’s keep being active after National Walking Month. Let’s set a good example to our patients and other organisations that being a part of Conexus means that we support and encourage each other in being physical active throughout the working week!
Author: Paul Rudd, Health and Wellbeing Coach at Trinity Health Group PCN