Every walk is powerful medicine
Simply putting one foot in front of the other can do wonders for your health.
Engaging in moderate physical activity – like a brisk walk – for 68 minutes or more a day may improve neuron health, according to a study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Further, if you’re feeling stuck at work or you’ve been searching for a solution to a tricky problem, going for a walk can spark creativity. In a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning and Memory, researchers administered creative thinking tests to subjects while seated and while walking and found that walkers thought more creatively than the sitters.
People who walk briskly for 20 minutes a day five days a week have 43 per cent fewer sick days than those who exercise once a week or less, says research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Women who walk four hours a week have a
41 per cent lower risk of hip fracture than those who walk less than one hour a week, the landmark Nurses’ Health Study found.
If you walk an hour each day, your risk of developing breast cancer after menopause is 14 per cent lower than if you log three hours or fewer per week, an American Cancer Society study revealed.
You know how sometimes it takes a glass of wine or a square (or three) of dark chocolate to blunt the edge of a rough day? Well, going for a walk is a zero kilojoule strategy with the same benefits. “Research shows that regular walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you’ll experience a decrease in anger and hostility,” says Dr Melinda Jampolis, an expert on health and nutrition. Meanwhile, a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that 12 per cent of depression cases could be prevented if we all walked (or did another form of exercise) for at least an hour each week.
Walking is like lubrication for our joints, explains kinesiologist Brad Cardinal. “Each step moves synovial fluid into and out of our joints and helps circulate nutrients to our cartilage, which improves function.”
Chronic diseases can impact the quality of your life and longevity, and there’s impressive evidence to show that regular walking significantly reduces your risk: it lowered blood pressure by as much as 11 per cent in a US study, and may reduce risk of stroke by 20 per cent to 40 per cent. Walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, also lowers your risk of heart diseases by as much as 30 per cent according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Walking also lowers your blood sugar levels and your overall risk of diabetes.
By adding muscle tone to your legs, walking is a great beauty aid – contributing to shapely ankles and calves. And it can also prevent varicose veins, says Dr Luis Navarro, director of the Vein Treatment Centre in New York.
You’ll start to get more regular. Walking uses our core and abdominal muscles, encouraging movement in our lower intestinal tract. And so if you’re prone to constipation, once you start walking on a regular basis you’ll soon be able to stop using laxatives.