Hippocrates famously declared that “walking is man’s best medicine”. Over 2,000 years later, that opinion still stands. The Greek physician known as ‘the father of medicine’ was way ahead of his time in so many ways. You can gain countless health benefits from a daily walk – and virtually no reason to not make the effort. Walking is an easy, free, low-intensity activity. It’s suitable for all ages, abilities and fitness levels. It needs no mental preparation, gym membership or expensive equipment. All you have to do is get up, put on some shoes and go out to gain the benefits of walking.
Walking for health & fitness
It’s fair to say that walking doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It’s very easy to dismiss the benefits of walking as a valuable form of exercise. But walking briskly can help you burn calories, build stamina and make your heart healthier. We live busy lives today and many of us struggle to fit in exercise. But even a brisk 10-minute daily walk pays dividends. It’s a great way to achieve the 150 minutes per week of physical activity that’s recommended by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers. According to Public Health England, one brisk walk a day can cut the risk of early death by up to 15%.
Walking boosts fitness, prevents weight gain and importantly, improves cardiac health. It’s the perfect way to get your blood pumping, without putting serious stress on your cardiovascular system. Studies on the benefits of walking show that regular walking can reduce the probability of heart attacks, heart failure, angioplasty and strokes. It can also help to control high blood pressure. According to the Stroke Association, regular moderate exercise can reduce your risk of stroke by 27%.
Walking for weight loss
We all know that to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. It sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done. Most of us lead sedentary lifestyles, spending far too much behind a desk or in front of a screen. However, walking is a great way to burn calories. And it’s one of the easiest, most accessible forms of exercise to incorporate into daily life
To lose weight, you should walk for a minimum of 30 minutes at least three to five days per week. Seven days a week is even better! With the benefits of walking, you can work your way up to those amounts if you’re not used to exercise. Start small and gradually build up your activity time.
As a general rule, a casual walk burns off around 150 calories per half hour. It’s estimated you need to burn approximately 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat. So if you walk for 30 minutes five times a week, you’ll burn 750 calories. Keep that up for six months and you could lose five pounds, just through a daily stroll! Increase the frequency, or incorporate some hills, to accelerate that weight loss. Regular brisk walks can also boost your metabolism and promote further weight loss. It should help to keep you loose and limber too.
Walking can combat dementia
It might sound far-fetched, but a brisk daily walk could help keep dementia at bay. Canadian researchers have discovered a link between moderate gentle aerobic exercise and cognitive brain function in dementia sufferers. A study has shown that subjects who took regular walks for six months showed improved brain function levels. These walks could even help prevent certain types of dementia from developing in the first place.
The Alzheimer’s Society also advocates regular physical exercise to reduce your dementia risk. And their definition of physical exercise includes brisk walking. One study looked at the health behaviours of over 2,000 men in Wales and followed them for 35 years. Exercise had the greatest effect in terms of reducing dementia risk out of five behaviours which were assessed.
Aerobic exercise can also improve the performance of healthy adults on thinking tests, the Society has found. Clinical trials showed that a month or more of regular aerobic exercise triggered improvements in memory, attention and processing speed.
Walking improves your mood
Walking is a natural mood-booster and we love the benefits of walking in our studio. In fact, we all enjoy a brisk walk every day! Exercise releases happy chemicals, such as dopamine and endorphins, into our brain. Being exposed to sunlight and fresh air as you walk will also lift your spirits. An added bonus? Your body produces vitamin D when it’s directly exposed to sunlight. We need vitamin D to absorb calcium and keep our immune systems functioning. Research also shows that vitamin D might play a key role in regulating moods and warding off depression.
Walking in a group can significantly up the feel-good factor. It’s also a great way to make new friends, see more of family and stay motivated. If you’re snappy from sleep deprivation, walking can boost your mood via improved sleep quality.
Last but not least, don’t underestimate the sense of achievement a daily walk can bring. Not many of us can run a marathon or scale mountains. But anyone able-bodied can pull off a regular promenade, benefit physically – and enjoy feeling proud of it. Hippocrates certainly knew his stuff.