We all know we should walk more. We should park our cars farther away from the entrance, walk the few blocks instead of taking a cab, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and so on. Of course, these are good habits, but if you push it a step further and go for dedicated, regular walks, you will get some amazing benefits.
The benefits of regular walking include not only improvements to your physical health, but to your mental health and well being as well. There is a reason moving feels great. It is great for you! Let’s look at eight reasons regular walking will enhance your life.
1. It’s Great for Your Body
Let’s start with the most obvious benefit: walking is good exercise. According to the U.S. federal guidelines you should get at least 2 and a half hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, and brisk walking counts. This coupled with a good diet will lower blood pressure and strengthen your heart as well as your lungs.
Another advantage of walking is that people of all weights and body types can begin walking, even if slowly, and they can progressively increase their speed and distance. Walking can act like a gateway exercise for high intensity exercises such as running, although even staying at the moderate exercise that brisk walking gives you will go a long way toward keeping you healthy, and can even have some advantages over high intensity exercises. I personally will combine these, taking brisk walks almost every day and higher intensity cardio exercises a few times a week.
2. Sort Out your Thoughts
This is one of my favorite benefits of walking. It allows you to sort through your thoughts in a relaxing, yet extremely productive way.
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” Friedrich Nietzsche
When I am faced with difficult issues or decisions, I often go for a long walk. I will dedicate parts of the route to thinking about specific aspects of the issue as I go, with the goal of using the final leg to wrap things up, with at least initial solutions. In this way, walking is very productive for me.
You can also use this walking time to generally sort through your thoughts and get a new perspective on things.
Bigger things to work out in your head? Go for a longer walk! Side note though — don’t feel you have to think during a walk. Although walking helps provide an excellent conduit for great world class thinking, in many cases, depending your mood, it can be better to not think at all during the walk.
3. Become Inspired
Walking stirs your creativity. You can have brand new ideas while walking that can potentially change your situation, or even your life or the world. Steve Jobs used to go on walking meetings. Charles Dickens, Virginia Wolfe and Ludwig Van Beethoven are other famous walkers.
According to a study by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford University published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, casual walking increased a person’s ability to think up new ideas over sitting at a desk.
“If you seek creative ideas go walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” Raymond I. Myers
4. Relieve Your Stress
Walking is great at relieving stress! You can be feeling anxious at your office desk or sofa at home, and as soon as you get up, and put one foot in front of the other and walk, you can literally feel the tension melt away! Walking does not solve all your problems, but it will give you a better perspective on them by reducing the general physical and emotional sensations of stress through exercise.
I always like the feeling of starting a walk, feeling my blood flowing and seeing things go by where it feels like I am escaping my daily stress. In fact, although I am just guessing, I feel this could be an evolutionary thing dating back to the times of generally escaping danger by moving away from it. It’s relaxing watching things go by and noticing things that take your mind away from your troubles.
Also, when you go on solitary walks, it is ‘me’ time for you. On the flip side, going with a friend can give you a social outlet that also takes your mind away from your problems or gives you a different take on them.
5. Improve Your Mood
Walking improves your mood for a variety of reasons, including some of the other items on this list. Make it regular and It can even make you a happier person. Also, it has been shown that walking in nature general calms you and gives you a better outlook on things.
According to a study at Iowa State University though, even with other factors aside, like social interaction and walking in nature, just the mechanics of walking itself lifts a person’s mood.
Walking may also help with depression, which according to one study caused a 40% improvement in well-being on people with major depression. Even if you are not depressed or have any kind of mood disorder, it’s pretty obvious that your mood lifts after a walk.
In a bad mood? Walk yourself out of it!
6. Obtain Mental Clarity
Have you ever heard of meditation walking? Yes, that’s a thing! The basis of meditation is to focus your attention on the present and let go of distracting thoughts for a while. Walking is an ideal environment for this since all the things around you that attract your attention are planted solidly in the present. Let your mind go and focus on your foot steps and the sights that you see go by.
“Walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance beween spirit and humility.” Gary Snyder
7. Get to Your Ideal Weight
Whether you want to lose a few pounds, or maintain your current weight, walking will help you meet these goals. Walking burns approximately the same amount of calories per mile as running, although it takes longer.
Keep a regular walking routine up and you can see your weight drop toward your ideal. Walking, like other exercises can make you hungrier though. However, if you are careful not to eat more on the days that you walk, you should see the pounds come off.
8. Have Spiritual Time
For the religious, a walk can be used for prayer and spiritual reflection. It can be a time carved out to get closer to God. I have a Catholic friend for example that uses her morning walks to say the rosary (and she gets some very interesting questions and conversation from other walkers).
“My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing.” Aldous Huxley
Enjoy the Benefits of Regular Walking!
Get out there and walk regularly and you won’t regret it. Like anything you will need to form a routine and make it a habit. You will find that you will hardly miss a chance to go for a long walk!
Check out our upcoming walking exercise app, Remote Walk!