It’s good for you and the environment.
Walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise. Not only is it really easy to get started, it’s great for your health and really good news for the environment – forgoing the car in favour of a one mile walk (which will take you around 15 to 20 minutes) will save an average of 411g of CO2. And it’s completely free! It also gives you a much-needed break from the house.
Ahead of this year’s national Walk to Work Day on 3rd April, here are 10 reasons why your health will thank you for pounding the pavements, either as a commute or just to stay healthy in mind and body.
- Walking helps you live longer
Regular exercise is key to a healthy lifestyle, and healthy individuals will generally live longer than their less healthy counterparts, but walking has specifically been shown to add years to the average person’s lifespan.
- Walking helps you sleep better
We could all do with better sleep – and walking is one way to get it. Research shows that people who take gentle exercise regularly – including a daily walk – fall asleep more quickly, sleep longer and have a better quality of sleep than those who do no exercise or, conversely, vigorous exercise.
- Walking helps lift your mood
Feeling down in the dumps? Cabin fever? Then go for a walk. Several studies report that frequent walking is good for lifting the spirits. One study, for example, found that people who averaged 200 minutes of walking every week were more likely to have higher energy levels, better emotional health and a more robust social life than more sedentary participants.
- Walking helps prevent weight gain
While walking can be a low-impact way to help shift those stubborn pounds, it’s also a great way to ensure they never come back – especially as you get older. A study from the Harvard Medical School shows that women that ate a standard diet and walked for an hour a day were the same weight 13 years after they were first surveyed.
- Walking boosts your metabolism
A low metabolism – also known as metabolic syndrome – usually comes with high blood sugar, increased blood pressure and cholesterol, and a spare tyre around the waist. All these things can add up to diabetes, heart disease and even early death. However, one study suggests that walking an hour a day can reduce the likelihood or developing metabolic syndrome by 29%.
- Walking helps your brain perform better
According to some research, every footstep you take helps deliver more blood to your brain, and an increased supply of blood to the brain is said to help boost cognitive performance. Other studies suggest walking can stave off dementia. Stuck on a tricky task at work? Go for a stroll.
- Walking is good for your knees
Walking is a great form of weight-bearing exercise, which can help prevent bone-thinning conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Researchers from the University of California found that people who participated in moderate aerobic activities such as walking have the healthiest knees as it can help maintain healthy cartilage.
- Walking can help with back pain
A good walk might be just antidote for an aching back. A small study of adults with chronic lower back pain found that a six-week walking programme, which involved working up from a 20-minute stroll to a 40-minute walk, was just as effective for pain-relief as an expensive rehab programme.
- Walking can help prevent strokes
One large, long-term study found that women who regularly took brisk walks for exercise had a much lower chance of having a stroke than those who didn't. Researchers credit this to walking's ability to help lower high blood pressure, which is a strong risk factor for stroke.
- Walking can reduce your risk of cancer
A recent study suggests that people who do just two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise a week – that’s a 20 minute walk a day – have lower odds of getting seven types of cancer. This is particularly beneficial for women – the study found those who did the recommended amount of activity were up to 18% less likely to get womb cancer and 6% less likely to get breast cancer than those who were inactive.
The bottom line
Walking really is a winner for everyone. By leaving the car at home you’re massively boosting your health and contributing to the health of those around you in the process – walking doesn’t pump any harmful emissions into the atmosphere, after all. Give it a try on Walk to Work Day whether you're working from the office or from home – you’ve nothing to lose.
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