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The health benefits of walking

A photo of a person in running shoes walking up a set of stairs.
Image Credit: Hannah Theodore

Most people would say walking is the ultimate exercise. It’s often the most accessible exercise for people on a busy schedule, and as a bonus, it comes with a variety of benefits to your health and wellbeing. Here are a number of reasons why you should incorporate walking into your daily routine!

Walking reduces the risk of heart problems over time

Since walking is a cardio exercise, it can help prevent heart disease and reduce blood pressure. Walking 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of stroke by 20 per cent at a normal pace and 40 per cent at a slightly more strenuous pace according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Walking is good for your mental health

If you’ve ever chosen to go on a walk and found yourself coming back with a bundle of energy or feeling refreshed, that’s because walking releases natural endorphins to the body. Several studies have shown walking to be an amazing mood booster, even going so far to say that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were. For those struggling with their mental health, walking has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and may help with anxiety and feelings of loneliness as well. Taking a walk with a friend or joining a fitness walking group may be a good way to get a daily social activity in. Attending to your social needs is linked to attaining higher self-esteem and greater empathy for others and walking with others is a great way to supplement that need.

Walking can protect your bones

Walking can stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis according to Michael A. Schwartz, MD, of Plancher Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in New York who provided the research for the Arthritis Foundation in Atlanta, GA. The majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply and gets its nutrition from the joint fluid that circulates as we move. Compression of the joints from walking “squishes” the cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area.

Walking boosts energy

Regular exercise is proven to increase daily energy levels by strengthening your heart and lungs. A small-scale study by Derek D. Randolph and Patrick J. O’Connor, done with college aged women as the subjects, showed that walking up the stairs for 10 minutes can be more energizing than a low dose of caffeine. Doing cardio also improves your sleep quality and better sleep quality can lead to more energy during the day.

Walking sparks creativity

Some of you might do this automatically but evidence shows that indoor or outdoor walking helps encourage creative thinking. In a study done by Stanford University, participants were told to walk on a treadmill and then complete Guilford’s Alternate Uses Test (AUT) of creative divergent thinking and the Remote Associates Test (RAT) of convergent thinking. The results showed that walking increased 81 per cent of participants’ creativity on the AUT and 21 per cent of participants on the RAT.