Just Start Walking
Posted on 23rd March 2018 | by steve
Walking is a simple and inexpensive activity that offers many benefits for our health and general wellbeing. Despite this, it can still be challenging to find the time to walk during a busy day.
Sometimes it’s our family, work, or study commitments that take priority. Sometimes it’s the weather that puts us off. And sometimes – if we’re honest – we just can’t find the motivation.
That’s all fine, but let’s look at some of the key benefits of walking, and then see if we can’t offer some suggestions that might help get you out the door.
The Benefits Of Walking
- Walking is free – No gym membership required, no fancy gear needed beyond a basic pair of trainers (and – given that this is England – possibly some waterproofs), and you can do it at a time, place and pace that suits you. Sure, get a fitbit and count your 10,000 steps if you want to, but you don’t need to if that’s not your thing.
- Walking works anywhere – We prefer country or coastal scenery to walk in, but walking in urban environments is fine too. That’s one of the great things about living in the North East – we’re spoilt for choice!
- Walking gets you moving – Sorry for stating the obvious, but with so many people chained to their desks, stuck in their car or camped on their sofa sometimes the obvious needs to be stated. Our sedentary lifestyles are really damaging our health, movement is the solution, and walking is a great form of movement.
- Walking is low impact – Walking doesn’t unduly stress the body in the way that higher impact forms of exercise can, but it still increases general mobility and flexibility, helps to alleviate the muscle tension that builds up in our body over time, and helps to improve stamina, strength and balance. It’s a great form of exercise at any age, but is particularly beneficial in helping us age well.
- Walking helps to improve your posture – Many of us spend countless hours at our desk or looking down at our smart phones, creating issues like ‘text neck’, tension headaches and various other issues. Walking helps to strengthen our spine and musculoskeletal framework, and helps us maintain a natural upright position.
One little caveat here: Please don’t become part of the zombie generation! They’re the folks who walk from A to B whilst constantly looking down at their phone, bumping into other people, tripping on unnoticed kerbs or steps, nearly getting run over by cars and buses, and so on. I’m sure you’ve come across the type before…just don’t be one of them!
- Walking keeps your spinal discs healthy – The motion of walking helps to rehydrate spinal discs. Normal everyday movements place a lot of pressure on our spinal discs, especially if you’re stuck in a limited set of postures for an extended period of time. This sustained pressure dehydrates and weakens the discs, but the movement of walking counteracts this by stimulating circulation throughout your body, thus bringing greater hydration and nourishment to the discs and keeping them in better shape.
- Walking aids with weight loss/control – There’s lots of reasons for this, not the least being that walking improves pre and post eating insulin sensitivity, it increases activity of a fat shredding protein called lipoprotein lipase (which makes it easier to burn fat for fuel rather than store it in the body after a meal), and psychologically helps you resist the urge to raid the biscuit tin if your walk has just helped you blow off the stress of a busy day or intense discussion with your significant other. Combine walking with healthy eating and other aspects of a wellness lifestyle for best results.
- Walking is in our DNA – I’ve touched on weight loss, but walking has heaps of other metabolic benefits as well. Did you know that kids who walk to school tend to be fitter than their peers who do not? That older healthy adults who walk briskly live longer than those that do not? That brisk walking helps lower blood pressure? That regular walking improves working memory and limits cognitive decline? Quite simply, we’re designed to walk, and it has remarkable benefits throughout our body.
- Walking is a great way to get/stay social – Life is busy, and it is easy lose touch with friends, family and even ourselves! This is particularly important when we remember that social isolation is as detrimental to our health as cigarette smoking, and that anxiety and loneliness are extremely common in our society. Why not grab some friends and create a regular walking date? Having a consistent time reserved for walking with others is a great way to stay motivated, have a laugh and get fit all at the same time.
- Walking eases stress – At a neurological level, moderate physical activity “soothes” us by stimulating the release of “calming” neurotransmitters in our brain. It’s possible that this works in conjunction with the fresh air we take in when walking, the relaxing effects of getting outside and having some natural light and space around us (especially if it is green space), the stepping away from our desk and the tasks we associate with it, and a number of other factors, but either way walking helps to ease stress and calm us down.
- Walking stimulates creativity – Be it a student struggling with their maths homework, a writer who can’t get the words to flow onto the page or someone else whose thinking has become a bit constipated it’s pretty easy to find people who’ll vouch for the positive effects walking has on their creativity. Again, maybe it’s the release of “feel good” chemicals associated with movement coupled with a change in perspective and fresh air, but whatever the underlying mechanism, it works for plenty of other people, and maybe it will work for you too?
So, there are just some of the benefits of walking. Now for some suggestions to help you incorporate walking into your daily life.
- Prioritise The Time – It starts with this! Things that are worthwhile rarely just happen by themselves. We know life is busy, but setting aside even just 30 minutes a day to walk does make a difference to physical and mental wellbeing. You can either enjoy the peace of walking by yourself or invite your partner, kids or a friend to share the time walking and catching up with you, but either way prioritising your walking time makes it far more likely to happen.
- Tweak Your Commute – While it may be too far to walk the whole way to work or school, what about finding a way to walk part of the journey? If you take public transport, you could try walking to the station rather than driving and parking, or getting off one stop early and walking the remaining distance. For those that drive, it could be as simple as parking a bit further away from your destination.
- Use Your Lunch time – Instead of working through your lunch break, why not utilise the time and go for a walk? You might be surprised at the great walks nearby. You could even invite a friend or colleague to join you. A lunch time walk may even reenergise you for the afternoon and stop you reaching for caffeinated drinks or sweets.
- Get Socialising – While we often catch up with friends and family over a meal or drink, why not suggest catching up over a walk? Walking is a great activity for socialising and you can even reward yourself afterwards by walking to a desired destination such as a shop, café or favourite pub.
- Get a dog – Ok, so this one won’t be possible for everyone, but we’ve certainly found that since our dog Bear joined our family and clinic team we’ve been doing a lot more walking. As a result, we’re fitter, more relaxed, and have met so many new people…most of whom remember Bear’s name far more readily than ours!
Click here or here if you’d like to read a couple of further articles on the benefits of walking, and remember that no matter how you go about it walking is a great way to get active to improve your physical and mental wellbeing. 30 minutes a day really makes a difference, so give it a try and hopefully you’ll find that the benefits are definitely worth the effort.