So simple, so convenient, yet the lure of the car with its air conditioning / heated seats / speed means more people are likely to drive to the corner shop when walking would have still only taken us five minutes! Inactivity is the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States, second only to tobacco use, and fewer than 50% of adults do enough exercise to gain any health or fitness benefits from physical activity. The percentage of adults who spent most of their day sitting increased from 36.8% in 2000 to 39.9% in 2005! Are we a lazy bunch or what?!
But it’s sooooo easy! I always say, if you only make one fitness change, walk more, as the benefits are so numerous and varied that the knock-on effect these benefits have on other areas of your life makes walking the best all round exercise you can do, and here’s why it’s worth allowing a few minutes extra so that you can walk rather than drive to your destination:
- Walking prevents Type 2 DIABETES – The Diabetes Prevention Program showed that walking 150 minutes per week (average around 20 minutes a day) and losing just 7% of your body weight (12-15 pounds) can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58%.
- Walking strengthens your HEART if you’re male. In one study, mortality rates among people who walk less than one mile per day were nearly twice that among those who walked more than two miles per day, while in another study people who walked for three hours of more per week (still only half an hour a day) reduced their risk of a heart attack by 35%!
- Walking makes you brainy! Walking for at least one and a half hours per week (15 minutes a day) had better COGNITIVE FUNCTIONING than those who walked less than 40 minutes a week.
- Reduced STRESS – lower levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, with higher levels of stress-busting endorphins, make walking a stress reliever. Walking in green spaces has also been shown to put your mind into a meditative state!
- BONE health – approximately one mile a day is all it takes to improve bone density, which is especially important in women, who lose significant bone density following menopause.
- Being outside when it’s light (even if not blazing sunshine) is the best ways to top up VITAMIN D levels (I wrote more about Vitamin D here, and there’s a discount on home testing and supplements if needed), which the body cannot product itself without adequate sun exposure. This vitamin is vital to bone health, mood and cognitive functioning, and immunity.
- Increased ENERGY and alertness – taking a walk outside can improve memory and attentions span by 20%, and walking has been shown to increase energy levels even if you only walk a small amount, both in the short term and with longer term energy benefits.
- Reduced CANCER risk – 75-150 minutes of walking per week reduces the risk of cancer by 18% compared to non-walkers, as well as easing symptoms and quality of life in existing sufferers.
- Walking improves HEART and LUNG fitness. Walking three times a day for 10 minutes, three times a week, has the same fitness benefits of 30 minutes a day in one bout, three times a week.
- Walking improves MOBILITY and keeps joints healthy, preventing mobility problems as we age.
Before you start
If you have any concerns or medical conditions, check with your doctor that you are fit to increase your daily walking.
Invest in good shoes – sore, aching, blistering feet will not make you want to continue!
Keep warm – wrap up if it’s cold outside, and slowly pick up the pace instead of running out the door, to help prevent injuries.