Whether you’re out for a hike, or for a simple walk, the benefits of walking for exercise affect both body and mind in a way that is both effective and efficient, from pilates to boot camp to water spinning and more, we shouldn’t forget that it can be just as helpful to simply put one foot in front of the other and go.
Technology has created a rise in more sedentary lifestyles at home and at work. Parents, teachers and healthcare workers alike have shown concern about the impact of sitting for long periods of time on our wellbeing. As luck would have it, technology is now giving us help in that area too. Walking for exercise has become trendier with the growth of personal activity trackers.
10 Benefits of Walking for Exercise
Fortunately, the benefits of walking for exercise can do way more than get you another Pikachu (whatever that means). People who make an effort to walk regularly have:
Better Brain Function
When your foot makes impact it sends pressure waves through the arteries that increase blood flow to the brain. This means that the very act of walking produces pressure waves in the body that significantly increase cerebral blood flow, which can improve brain function. No wonder we tend to get tired and cranky after sitting for a while!
A Healthier Heart
This probably comes as no surprise, but moderately intensive walking improves a person’s cardiovascular risk factors. In order to see the most benefits of walking for exercise, you need to move like you mean it. Those who walk at a pace faster than three miles per hour have a 50% lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and cardiovascular dysfunction.
Also, remember that even a few minutes of walking can help a person who spends most of the day seated at a desk. Studies show that when a person sits for six straight hours, vascular function is impaired. However, walking for just 10 minutes after sitting for an extended period of time can help to restore vascular health.
And if you have 10 minutes to walk while in your office, look for a flight of stairs. Research shows that 10 minutes of walking up and down stairs at a regular pace makes people feel more energized than ingesting a can of caffeinated soda.
More Creative Ideas
Many people claim they do their best thinking when walking, and research has long supported this statement. In fact, in one study, 100% of students tested came up with more creative ideas when walking compared with when they were sitting. So when you need to have an imagination breakthrough, consider taking a walk.
You probably never thought about needing coordination to take a walk, but walking is a whole-body movement where neurons in the spinal cord coordinate the movement of your arms and legs to ensure a stable body posture during motion.
If someone tells you to go take a hike, you should consider taking them up on that offer. Walking is an excellent way to reduce stress, but walking in nature is even better. It has been shown that when nature settings, the brain can relax, which helps to restore or refresh its cognitive abilities. That’s why so many people experience reduced stress after walking in nature.
Reduced Back Pain
Remember what we said about how the spine helps coordinate the process of walking? Well, some believe that aerobic walking may be just as effective as clinical therapy in the treatment of lower back pain. When people walk their abdominal and back muscles work together similar to when they perform a set of exercises that specifically targets these areas.
A Memory Boost
People who are depression can have an improved memory after a walk in nature than a walk in a busier, more urban environment. People focus better after being outside in nature because they can disconnect from the distractions that constantly exhaust their minds.
Lower Body Fat
Getting the benefits of walking for exercise does always mean putting on workout clothes and setting aside an hour or more. People who walk to work tend to have a lower body fat percentage and body mass index in mid-life compared to people who commute to work by car – even those with the same level of general physical activity and overall health. In other words, if you can walk to your office, do it.
A Higher Calorie Burn
The 10,000-step walking programs are great for motivating people to be active, but the effort exerted is just as important, if not more so, than the total number of daily steps accumulated. People who are walking for exercise that add intensity to their stride and who achieve their goal number of steps at a quicker pace tend to burn more calories and become more physically fit than those who take a more leisurely stroll. Even walking at varying speeds can burn up to 20% more calories than maintaining a steady pace, so walk like you need to get somewhere in a hurry.
With these fantastic benefits of walking for exercise, it seems that a long walk a day may keep the doctor away, and the therapist too.