For most people, it feels as if we always need to have a destination when it comes to walking. We are walking from the parking lot to the store, walking from the beginning of the path in the park to reach the end, or walking from point A to get to point B, all with efficiency and a goal in mind. But, what if you just walk to gain a better lifestyle, add more exercise into your day, and get a clearer mind?
Walking is one of the best ways to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, keep your joints strong, improve your mental health, and live longer. Not only that, this form of exercise can lower your blood pressure, help your heart, and reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
During the summer, I increased my daily walking to at least 30 minutes, the ideal amount suggested for each day. I enjoyed this time as I was able to change up my pace all the while walking in a silent, peaceful atmosphere where I was able to think and just let my brain relax. Those 30 minutes were a break from reality. Also, my waist got a little smaller with each step. These are not the only benefits I received each day. In fact, walking any amount each day produces a very positive outcome, including the advantages below.
- Regular walking burns calories and reduces fat. Together, this can increase your metabolism, as well as burn 200 calories in 30 minutes. Start with a simple routine to get your time and steps in. It is recommended to get 10,000 steps a day. Start out slow and then move to a faster pace, speed walking. If you are walking outside, add in hills and varying types of landscape.
- In addition to burning calories, walking clears a person’s mind and improves their mood. After a long, tough day, there is nothing better than to go on a quick walk. It doesn’t have to be long; 10 minutes is just enough time to lift your spirits. Dr. Melina B. Jampolis, author of The Doctor on Demand Diet, states that “regular walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you’ll experience a decrease in anger and hostility.” In fact, during the winter months, a little bit of sunlight outside and walking will help with seasonal depression. Also, walking has been proven to reduce a person’s stress levels by lowering the hormone cortisol. Studies show that just 10 minutes decrease anxiety and depression, while increasing focus and creativity. In addition, 60 minutes lowers activity in brain regions that are involved in stress processing. In fact, it will also release endorphins, creating a better mood.
- Another advantage of walking is that it tames your sweet tooth. Studies from the University of Exeter in England affirmed that 15 minutes can diminish chocolate cravings and unnecessary eating in stressful situations, as well as sugar intake.
- Just like other hormones, walking increases melatonin, thus allowing you a better night’s sleep. There have also been found positive effects on sleep quality and length of sleep, all thanks to this particular type of exercise, as well as a reduction in joint pain which can cause sleep problems. There is an increase in blood flow to tense areas and muscles surrounding your joints get stronger with walking.
- Not only does the increase of blood flow improve your joints, it can also decrease your risk for varicose veins. Dr. Luis Navarro, founder and director of The Vein Treatment Center in New York City, explains that “the venous system includes a circulatory section known as ‘the second heart,’ which is formed by muscles, veins, and valves located in our calf and foot. This system works to push blood back up to the heart and lungs – and walking strengthens this secondary circulatory system by strengthening and preserving leg muscle, which boosts healthy blood flow.” Sounds like an advantage to me!
Now that school is back in session, my schedule has become busier than it was during the summer. However, one thing is for sure, I am going to make every effort to put walking back into my daily routine. After all, who doesn’t want a healthy lifestyle that can be accomplished with a simple, calming activity?