Author: Meghana S Nair
“Walk to be happy; walk to be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.”Charles Dickens
Walking is the most ancient mode of transportation available to humans – but is not always treated as a full transport mode. Modern times have brought new ways of getting around, leading many of us to be much less active than our ancestors. Walking is simple and natural, it doesn’t require any instruction, money or skill. It is used mainly for two purposes: short trips to specific destinations such as shops when there is probably not too much to carry and leisure trips where the walking itself is the main purpose.
Walking needs to be taken more seriously as a means of transport and you can make it a part of your daily life. It will not only get you away from the hectic routines of your everyday life but also contributes to your mental health. Walk to work and to the store. If it’s too far, try walking to the nearest bus station or train instead of driving there, and then get off the bus a few stops before your destination. Instead of competing for the closest parking space or paying extra for a nearby lot, park farther away and walk to your destination. Go for a walk at lunchtime instead of spending all your time in the cafeteria. Every walk you take is a step toward good health.
Health Benefits of Walking
Walking is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. Let’s take a look at some of the best health benefits of walking.
1. Walking improves your mental health
Research shows that regular walking through some greenery or soaking in a bit of sunlight actually modifies your nervous system so much that you’ll experience an improvement in your mood. It can help reduce anxiety, depression, anger, and a negative mood. It can also boost self-esteem and reduce symptoms of social withdrawal.
2. Walking can reduce your risk of chronic diseases
Research shows that walking lowers your blood sugar levels and your overall risk for diabetes. It also improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity and mental stress. Longer walks are key for disease prevention and you should consider increasing the duration or distance you walk per day.
3. Walking will help you burn calories and lose weight
Regular walking increases metabolism by burning extra calories which in return can help you maintain or lose weight. It can help improve your body’s response to insulin, which can help reduce belly fat.
4. Walking boosts your energy
Walking increases oxygen flow through the body. It can increase levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Those are the hormones that help elevate energy levels. Going for a walk may be a more effective energy boost than grabbing a cup of coffee.
5. Walking helps in toning your legs
Walking strengthens bones by improving the lubrication between joints and toning the muscles in your legs. To build up more strength, walk in a hilly area or find routes with stairs. It can even delay the onset of varicose veins or spider veins. If you already suffer from varicose veins, daily walking can help ease related swelling and restlessness in your legs. Walking also increases blood flow to tense areas and helps strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints, it can help alleviate joint pain.
6. Walking will help you sleep better at night
Walking also helps to reduce pain and stress, which can cause sleep disturbances. If you work out regularly, you know that you’ll sleep better at night. That’s because exercise boosts the effect of melatonin, the natural sleep hormone.
7. Walking boosts immunity and reduces frequent attacks of infection
Walking increases the number of white blood cells circulating in your blood. These cells fight infection and other diseases as part of the body’s immune system. Those who walked at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day had fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections overall.
Tips to Get the Most From Walking
You can get the world’s easiest fitness fix by walking. The best thing about walking is that you don’t need any special skill, much fewer lessons. The main thing is to walk naturally and comfortably. Also, it’s very important to reduce the sitting time. The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems. Sitting too much can negatively impact your health and longevity. So, walk as much as you can every day, even if it’s just a bit, is better than nothing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, walking is a wonderful way to fulfil the quota. The benefits of any physical activity depend on three elements: the intensity, duration, and frequency of exercise. Walking is less intensive compared to running, you have to walk for longer periods, get out more often, or both to match the benefits of running. You should aim for brisk walking at least 30 minutes every day; but if it’s better for your schedule, go for an hour-long walk four times a week. Try walking by swinging your arms vigorously like speed walkers do because arm-swinging allows for a quicker pace, and provides a good workout for your upper body.
You can also keep track of statistics as it works as a great motivation tool. A basic pedometer, fitness tracking device, or pedometer app on your smartphone will show you how many steps you take each day. Researchers suggest healthy adults to aim for an average of 5000 steps per day, working up to 10,000 steps in order to stay active.
You don’t need any special equipment to walk in the course of your daily life. Supportive street shoes will suffice, but you can also change into walking shoes. And since you don’t need to push yourself enough to sweat, you don’t need special clothing; just stay warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and dry in the rain. Walking on streets and trails is superb for health. And so is walking upstairs.
Environmental Benefits of Walking
Walking plays an important role in improving our quality of life. Not only is it positive physically and mentally, but it can also impact the environment considerably. It helps protect and improve the living environment and natural resources. The choice to walk more often can positively contribute to the planet, and we have selected the top reasons why it should be encouraged.
1. Walking can reduce the impact of emissions on climate change
Car emissions are one of the predominant causes of greenhouse gases which are harmful to people and the environment. Research suggests choosing to walk a short journey instead of travelling in a car can have significant advantages for the environment over a year. Walking more and using the car less is one way we can all help reduce the impact of greenhouse emissions on global warming.
2. Walking contributes to the reduction of air pollution
Motor vehicles contribute greatly to air pollution by emitting substances that are harmful to our health and the environment. Sustainable alternatives to cars are walking and cycling. One of the best ways individuals can contribute to reducing air pollution is to leave the car at home for short trips and walk instead.
3. Walking reduces noise pollution and congestion
Also with more people walking and fewer using cars, noise pollution significantly drops. Walking instead of driving helps reduce the traffic and the noise levels as well as having positive effects on other aspects of the environment and our health and well being. Also, walking requires less space and leads to less congestion compared to vehicles.
4. Walking creates happier surroundings
With more people visibly wandering the streets, the area appears safer. It motivates people to follow similarly and helps them to move out of their comfort zone. People have been reported to feel safer in environments where there is a reduction in loud, heavy and irresponsible traffic.
If you’ve started walking then you’ve already taken your first steps to a healthier, happier you. But we know that sometimes it can still be a challenge to keep going once you’ve started. Walking with a friend or a group is a great way to keep motivated – you can help and encourage each other to keep going. It can turn a bout of exercise into an enjoyable social occasion. Also taking your dog out for a walk every day can keep you motivated too. If you don’t have a dog and aren’t planning on getting one, consider offering to walk a neighbor’s dog from time to time.
Also, the best part of walking on a daily commute is that it comes with zero transportation costs when you are taking shorter journeys whereas owning a car can be financially demanding. Not only do you have to pay for maintenance, insurance, and tax, but you also have to ensure it stays running throughout the week on fuel. By reducing the shorter journeys completed by a vehicle, you will use less fuel and save more money.
You can also make your daily walk more interesting. Walk at various times of the day. The sights to see first thing in the morning are bound to be different from those of the afternoon or early evening. You can discover new places and find new routes so you don’t get tired of seeing the same sights.
Walking for the sake of taking a walk shows you are giving exercise the priority it deserves; walking for the sake of getting somewhere is cheaper and easier on the planet than driving. And for whatever reason you find yourself walking, it’s a great form of physical activity.