Is Walking REALLY That Important?
Do you ever operate from an ‘all or nothing’ mindset? You're either on a diet or in a pie eating contest, no in-between? The same mentality usually carries over into the exercise regimen. We want to get in shape, but the intense workout we planned is intimidating and feels like way more work than we have the energy for. So we do nothing. We'll kick it into high gear tomorrow.
If you're like me, you've heard that walking every day is healthy but have secretly wondered: is it enough to make a difference? If we’re not sweating, straining, and suffering, it doesn’t count. Right?
Wrong. The perfect metaphor to adjust this mindset is ironically based on the topic at hand: “It’s not a race, it’s a marathon.” Every bit of activity helps. Every bit. It’s not always the intensity of the workout but the consistency of effort. Walking every day can produce health benefits not only for the body, but for the mind and spirit.
Below is a checklist of reasons why you should absolutely incorporate walking into your daily routine - some you’ve heard before (but they bear repeating), and others might surprise you.
Strong bones. Our bones, like our muscles, are a tissue that is either getting stronger or weaker. Physical activity, like walking, actually increases bone density. Studies also show that walking backwards or side stepping could be as effective as high impact activities. Tip: try changing directions when you walk. This also improves coordination, something that tends to lessen as we age.
Heart health and increased energy. Walking increases blood circulation and brings more oxygen to your heart, providing the body with more energy. This increased circulation also manages blood pressure, something around 1 out of 3 Americans struggle with according to the American Heart Association.
Boosts immune system. High blood pressure caused by stress, adrenaline, and cortisol increases stress hormones that weaken the immune system. Walking calms the body and increases the amount of immune boosting cells.
Reduces arthritis pain. While physical activity is the last thing someone wants to do while they’re in pain, something as simple as walking will increase flexibility, strengthen bones, and rebuild joints which provides relief.
Regular bowel movements. Movement and increased oxygen helps stimulate your intestinal muscles, moving the digestive process along at a faster rate. By speeding up the digestive process, the body has less time to absorb water from the stool, helping it pass with ease.
Brain power. Walking is medicine for your brain. It fights dementia, improves memory, and can increase your brain’s hippocampus - an area of the brain that produces new neurons every day. Most of these neurons don’t survive, but they are nurtured through movement.
The Sunshine Vitamin. By going outside, our body gets a much needed dose of vitamin D. This increases oxygen, lightens our mood, builds up the immune system, lowers blood pressure... And the list doesn't stop there.
Boosts creativity. A Stanford study showed that folks who walked generated up to sixty percent more creative output. It’s no surprise that Steve Jobs held some of his meetings on-the-go.
Increased blood to the brain. "Researchers found that the foot's impact during walking sends pressure waves through the arteries that significantly modify and can increase the supply of blood to the brain." New Mexico Highlands University
Humans were meant to move and our body keeps rewarding us for it. Each journey begins with a single step, so get your walk on!
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