In honor of World Car-Free day Thursday this week’s Balanced Living topic is about the easiest, simplest most inexpensive thing you can do for a healthy mind, body AND planet. Have you guessed it yet? You got it … walking! I personally feel like walking is a shamefully underrated activity. Some may even have the misconstrued notion that walking is the “cop-out” exercise for people with no stamina to go running. Wrong! Walking is awesome for you! It gets the heart rate up, burns calories and keeps our minds clear. It is the most natural form of movement our bodies are designed for and much research has proven not just the physical, but also mental benefits of just a few hours of walking a week. The following list of reasons to start walking is adapted from CNN Health:
It’s great for the heart – In a recent study conducted at Duke University Medical Center, researchers found that walking briskly for 30 minutes every day lowers your odds of developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors linked to higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Roughly 24 million women in the United States have metabolic syndrome.
It cuts breast-cancer risks – Walking, even for a few hours a week, significantly reduces breast-cancer risk, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The thinking is that walking helps reduce levels of body fat, a source of estrogen.
It helps you sleep – A brisk walk in the afternoon will help you get a better night’s sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Experts say that walking may boost levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, which relaxes you. Or, the rise in body temperature brought on by walking may signal the brain to lower your temperature later, which promotes sleep. (Avoid a walk two hours before bed –that’s too late to cool down.)
It makes you happy – Walking can relieve depression, anxiety, and stress. Just one 30-minute walk may make you feel better when you’re down, University of Texas researchers found. Head out for 90 minutes five times a week and you’ll get the biggest boost, according to a new study from Temple University. One possible explanation: Walking helps the body produce endorphins, the mood-boosting chemicals linked to “runner’s high.”
It keeps you slimmer – Walking for 30 minutes a day can prevent weight gain in most people who are physically inactive, according to another Duke study. And researchers from Brown University and the University of Pittsburgh showed that women who walked for an hour five days a week and consumed 1,500 calories a day lost and kept off 25 pounds over the course of a year.
It staves off senior moments – Several studies in older people suggest that walking — even for as little as 45 minutes a week — helps ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Regular strolls are also linked to mental sharpness in seniors. But regardless of your age, walking is likely to help keep your mind active, particularly if you stroll with friends; walking while talking is a surefire brain booster.
It protects your bones – Just 30 minutes of walking three times a week does wonders to prevent and treat thinning bones. This kind of exercise, which uses 95 percent of your muscles, actually pushes your bones to get stronger so they can handle the load. “Walking,” Look says, “is not just for cardio.”
And on top of being great for our minds and bodies, if you can use walking to get from point A to point B instead of driving (even for just a few errands a week) you are doing something great for the planet too. Not to mention the fact that you save on gas money and don’t have to deal with traffic or parking. Bonus!
So grab your most comfortable pair of walking shoes (no expensive workout gear needed here!) and get your butt out the door. Breathe in the air, feel the sun on your face and move, move, move those feet!