“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.” -Ellen DeGeneres
The grass is growing greener, flowers are blooming, and the mercury in our thermometers is steadily rising. It’s time to get outside and enjoy the fruits of this wonderful world we live in.
Now don’t set your timer, or create your splits for an interval run, allow yourself the time and space to gain the benefits of a nice long walk. Here are seven research backed reasons to go for a walk today:
1. Walking Could Add Three to Seven Years to Your Life
According to a study presented to the European Society of Cardiology Congress in 2015, if you add just 20–25 minutes of walking daily, you could add seven years to your lifespan. The study followed 69 people between the ages of 30 and 60. Those who engaged in daily moderate exercise, like a brisk walk, saw anti-aging benefits that could add an additional three to seven years to your life.
Study author, Sanjay Sharma, professor of inherited cardiac diseases in sports cardiology at St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London, told The Independent:
“We may never avoid becoming completely old, but we may delay the time we become old. We may look younger when we’re 70 and may live into our nineties. Exercise buys you three to seven additional years of life. It is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function, and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia.”
This goes without saying, but when you are hitting the trails on your next walk, you are not sitting! Sitting is the new smoking and the more we get on our feet the better. Think about all the days you’re adding to your life the next time you stand up to go outside.
2. Walking Increases Creativity
The most creative place for most people is when they are taking a shower, well you can count walking outside right up there with it.
In Scott Barry Kaufman’s book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind he says:
“Our most creative ideas don’t tend to come when we’re consciously focused on the problem. Great insights come through interacting with people, gaining experiences and letting your mind make connections. There are various ways of allowing those unconscious connections to bubble forth to consciousness, and getting in touch with nature and movement are really important.”
Tesla came up with the idea for alternating electric currents during a stroll and William Wordsworth is said to have walked 180,000 miles in his lifetime.
3. Walking Helps with Problem Solving
In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport discusses the idea of “Productive Meditation”. He usually walks from his office to his home for lunch every day. When he does this he sets a problem he needs to solve in his mind and intentionally thinks on this problem during his walk. He says,
“The goal of productive meditation is to take a period in which you’re occupied physically but not mentally — walking, jogging, driving, showering — and focus your attention on a single well-defined professional problem.”
Prepare for this walk with any resources or information you might need beforehand. Get up, get moving, and see what big problems you might be able to solve on your next walk.
4. Walking Aids Learning
The next time you hit the trails, try listening to a book or podcast about something you want to learn more about. Per Harvard Health Publications, “In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.” Further, the study focused solely on walking on average 120 minutes a week.
Some schools are picking up on this important educational tool. The Walking Classroom is a program where students get outside, go for a walk, and listen to educational programming on specialized headphones. They state that, “Physical activity improves a youth’s perceptual skills, intelligence quotient, achievement, verbal tests, mathematic test, developmental level, and academic readiness.” The brain scans show that the activity in your body increases the activity of your brain.
5. Walking Your Way Ripped
Traditional cardio fans may not like to hear this, but your 30 minute slow jogs are keeping you jiggly. They can increase your cortisol (stress hormone) and can lead to breaking down your muscle tissue. When you want to add some cardio to your routine and keep your muscle you must focus on the two ends of the spectrum, walking and HIIT.
Nate Miyaki writes, “walking gives us many of the same benefits as traditional aerobic activity: calorie burning, lowered blood pressure, lowered resting heart rate, lowered cholesterol, increased cardiac output, increased capillary density, increased nutrient/oxygen delivery, etc.
Walking does not have the drawbacks of traditional cardio: musculoskeletal injury, joint wear and tear, elevated cortisol, muscle loss, or lowered metabolic rate. Simply put, it’s the aerobic activity we were meant to do.”
Be like our caveman ancestors and use your feet for walking.
6. Walking Deepens Relationships
Get out of your rut of watching Netflix and chilling and go out and explore with your significant other. Create a routine of walking the neighborhood and you could experience a deeper and more fulfilling relationship.
Howard Scott wrote on this subject in The Boston Globe, “Perambulating together forces you to lock in step, moving at the same speed, pacing at the same energy level. You align yourself right and left, or first and second when single filing. You form a rhythm of motion. This behavior adaptation is called cooperation. And what’s the key to relationships, if not cooperation?”
Walking together forces you to talk about the day’s events, the past and the future, and allows your energy to flow together. Mood follows action, and moving together is a great action to start.
Want an added bonus? Take your furry four-legged friend and increase the positive energy for you and those that see you out on your stroll.
7. Walking Can Be A Form of Meditation
We’ve all heard that meditation is the newest hack for the uber-productive. Want to take it up a notch? Try walking meditation. Kill two birds with one stone.
“Walking meditation unites our body and our mind. We combine our breathing with our steps. When we breathe in, we may take two or three steps. When we breathe out, we may take three, four, or five steps. We pay attention to what is comfortable for our body.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
Try this method the next time you are walking somewhere, moving our legs need not be only used as transportation; see it as a method to find clarity, calm, and comfort.
There you have it, seven researched backed reasons to go for a walk today. You don’t need to carve out hours to get your miles in and don’t plan on doing that right away. Park a little farther from your office. If it takes five minutes to drive somewhere, consider walking. Walk your pup instead of just letting them out in the backyard. For those that think that jumping on the treadmill will be the best way to get your steps in, consider this…
Extra Benefit : Get in Nature
Hit the pavement and tread when you need to; but if you can find some greenspace and nature to get into, it can provide tremendous benefits for your mental health.
A recent study took a look at groups of people who walked in a city area and those that walked in a green park: “A group of researchers from Stanford University thought the nature effect might have something to do with reducing rumination, or as they describe it, ‘a maladaptive pattern of self-referential thought that is associated with heightened risk for depression and other mental illnesses.’ Rumination is what happens when you get really sad, and you can’t stop thinking about your glumness and what’s causing it: the breakup, the layoff, that biting remark. Rumination shows up as increased activity in a brain region called the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a narrow band in the lower part of the brain that regulates negative emotions. If rumination continues for too long unabated, depression can set it.”
Avoid rumination, increase your positive experiences and enjoy some nature time.
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