The Benefits of Walking

benefits of walking

Everyone always talks about how good walking is for us, but do you actually know how good it is? Let’s talk about this underrated (and easy) form of exercise.

Reduce Stress

One of the things we can forget about is how amazing our bodies are and how there are levers and triggers and chemicals helping to regulate things all the time without our really knowing about them. One example of that is the hormone cortisol. It’s the hormone that gets dumped into your system to make you alert to danger. If you’ve ever had a near-miss car accident, that sudden clarity and flush you felt in your body was probably a massive dose of cortisol. 

So at the right moment, cortisol is helpful. But it’s not helpful outside of those situations. Walking helps reduce the cortisol in our bodies, helping us feel less stress.

Sleep Better 

Another amazing hormone in our bodies is melatonin. It gets an assist from physical activity to have an even stronger effect in its key task: helping us get to bed. It’s not that big of a leap to think about the connection between exercise and sleep. It’s just that we don’t often think of walking as exercise, but it is!

Improve Your Health

Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of:

  • Heart disease (up to 19%!)
  • Stroke
  • Type-2 Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis

You’re also going to get stronger bones, improved balance, reduced body fat, and increased muscle strength and endurance. 

Walking has even been shown to modify your immune system so that you experience a decrease in anger and hostility.

How to Start Walking More

If you look up the literature on walking, many articles are going to use the metrics of 30 minutes a day, 4-5 days per week, and at a brisk pace, which is a pace at which you can talk, but you can’t sing (though, singing while walking sounds oddly fun).

But when some people hear those metrics, they get discouraged and tune out because it sounds too much like a gym routine and that hasn’t worked for them in the past. Don’t sweat it (too much). Those same articles say that even 5-10 minutes per day can make a real difference. You can always adjust upwards as you move into a routine.

And if you can’t set aside a dedicated walk time, you can always take advantage of situations around you. You can park far away from wherever you are stopping with your car, forcing you to walk further away. You can do the same with public transportation, getting out 3-4 stops before your regular stop and walking the rest of the way. Or you can take the stairs whenever it makes sense (not when you need to get to the 18th floor).

Make the Walk Yours

There are so many ways you can walk. You can make it:

  • Social: take a friend and chat
  • Educational: pop in an interesting book or podcast
  • Silent: wear noise-cancelling headphones and soak up the silence
  • Thoughtful: have some time to just think through situations and challenges in your personal and professional life

As you walk, remember to keep your head up (no scrolling!) and keep your neck, shoulders, and back relaxed.

See you out there.

This content originally appeared in our monthly Open Calendar Club newsletter.

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