Pounding pavement: The benefits of walking

Incorporating exercise into an everyday routine may be daunting at first. It can be hard to know where to start and what to do, especially without a personal trainer to look out for your individual needs and goals.

Walking, however, does not require any extra workout equipment and can be done at your own pace according to your personal schedule. Despite its simplicity, walking still brings about several health benefits. Keep reading to learn how daily walking can be a beneficial addition to any routine.

Improved mood

Like other forms of physical activity, walking regularly helps to improve the release of endorphins in the brain. These hormones act as natural pain-relievers that are produced during pleasurable activities like exercise and can help improve mood. By extension, the release of endorphins through walking is also helpful for relieving stress.

These benefits can have an even more significant effect when walking in nature, which is especially useful for helping to relieve stress. A 2019 study found that people who spent 120 minutes or more per week in nature had higher levels of health and well-being than those who had no exposure.

Maintain bone health

Walking outdoors means more exposure to sunlight, which also means a higher production of vitamin D in the body. Vitamin D is essential for bone growth, helping to prevent bones from becoming brittle or thin.

One study found that regular brisk walking over a long period of time is an effective way to improve and maintain bone density, especially for those experiencing osteoporosis.

Reduce risk of diseases

Walking is helpful in preventing a number of diseases. Like all forms of physical activity, walking – brisk walking especially – can help reduce the risk of chronic conditions. Some examples include obesity, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and dementia. 

Walking is especially beneficial for preventing various heart diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, which largely stem from prolonged inactivity or limited movement.

As discussed earlier, outdoor walks also promote vitamin D production in the body. Aside from improving bone density, vitamin D also aids in reducing inflammation in the body, cell growth, and immune function.

Improve brain functioning

Even short bursts of walking can help improve brain functions. A study found that at least 10 minutes of walking helped improve mathematical problem-solving abilities in high school students. Memory and feature detection were also found to be improved. Additionally, the study found that these brain-boosting effects were even more effective in students who were usually lower-performing.

Another study found that those who walked more than 4,000 steps daily had greater hippocampus volume than those who walked less. This area of the brain is responsible for memory, learning, and overall cognitive functioning.

Walking tips

Walking itself is simple enough, but many factors can determine the actual quality of each walk. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety offers the following guidelines:

  • Be aware of your posture. Keep the head and spine straight, and try not to lean forwards or backwards. Keep shoulders and arms relaxed. Let them swing naturally without forcing them.
  • Keep breathing steady, not too shallow or too deep.
  • Taking breaks of more than five days between walks makes cumulative effects unnoticeable. Try to walk as frequently as you can, every day if possible.
  • Go at your own pace. Slow down if you have difficulty breathing.
  • If you experience pain, check to ensure you have proper footwear, or consult a physician or fitness expert.

Walking is a simple form of physical activity that can be incorporated into almost any daily routine. Walking consistently is the key to prolonged positive effects, so stick to it to see the full extent of the benefits this form of exercise offers.

About the author

Kyle Quilatan

Kyle is a writer for Youth Mind who studied English at Wilfrid Laurier University. When he’s not writing, he enjoys art and music.

Kyle Quilatan

Kyle is a writer for Youth Mind who studied English at Wilfrid Laurier University. When he’s not writing, he enjoys art and music.

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