Why Walk?Sunday 1 April 2012
Better physical health; fitness, weight loss, increased resistance to illness and disease. Feel better; lift your mood, sleep better, get more of a sense of control over your life. Social benefits from walking.
There are heaps of reasons why getting out and doing a bit of walking is worth a bit of time and effort.
Better physical health
Exercise is a really good thing for our bodies (and brains) and the good news is that you don’t have to do a marathon walk to get the benefits; research shows that you can do several brief walks (three brisk 10 minute walks a day) and get at least the same weight-loss benefit of one long 30 minute walk.
Exercise may make you feel hungry so don’t just fall into the trap of eating more; eat smarter. A good balanced diet may actually mean you eat less, but what you eat will be the good stuff your body will really respond to. No matter how much you walk, for instance, to lose weight you have to be burning more calories than you take in. So if you want the most benefit from your exercise watch your intake of fatty foods and sugary carbs especially - so less fast food!
Exercise will also increase good cholesterol and reduce the bad, as well as reducing our blood pressure. If you walk three times a week for 30 minutes (or do shorter walks more often)
You’ll build up your cardio or aerobic fitness (your heart will pump more strongly and more efficiently, and your muscle use oxygen more efficiently). Walking’s good for you brain ‘fitness’ as well; not only does it help our brains to work better generally, but to work better longer into our older age.
Walking is also effective in preventing type 2 diabetes, and in slowing bone and muscle loss - something which otherwise occurs naturally as we get older. In general, exercise reduces the risk of heart disease and of many forms of cancer, especially colon and breast cancer.
Exercise is really effective at helping to reduces stress, combatting depression and lifting your mood. When we lift the pace in our exercise our brains trigger the release of hormones called endorphins, which create a kind of natural high. Another ‘feel-good’ factor comes from the improved coordination that we gain from getting our bodies out moving, especially when we’re having to walk on uneven ground like a field or an off-road trail.
A more direct psychological benefit is the sense of mastery or accomplishment that comes from having achieved something - that first half-hour walk, or your fastest ever walk around the block, or just getting out and doing it on that day when you didn’t feel like it.
And - yes, there’s more! - exercise helps with sleep, especially the quality of our sleep, and this really helps with our mood and with our general energy level.
Walking with others is a good way of sharing an experience - something that builds up our sense of connection with other people. There are other indirect social benefits as well; when someone is more energetic and more positive they’re that much just nicer to be around, and when we’re fitter we tend to look better too!