3 min|Dr. Maya Kuczma

Creating A Walking Habit (Part 2)

Wellness, Mind Health
If we could bottle up the effects of walking, and sell it, we would be rich. It may be the closest thing we have to a panacea. It can improve multiple areas of our health, all at once, and is literally outside your door. And although it isn’t exactly newsworthy that physical exercise is good for, it is surprising how beneficial walking is, given that it is relatively easy, does not require training or much equipment (just a good set of shoes!), and can be done at any age, with any skill level.

Why Walking is Beneficial

  • Weight loss: a study evaluating walking for 30 or 60 minutes daily alongside a diet showed significant declines in body weight, BMI, and percentage of body fat in both groups, in comparison to participants who used diet alone (1)
  • Improves heart health: the same study showed improvements in diastolic blood pressure and triacylglycerol levels. (1) Additional studies have shown improvements in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure following a walking program (2)
  • Enhances mobility: walking, like most physical exercise, can improve mobility. Nordic walking, which uses walking poles, can be particularly helpful for conditions where mobility can be a challenge, such as Parkinson’s disease (3)
  • Alleviates stress: walking has been shown to reduce cortisol, our stress hormone; this effect is significant when walking in nature (4)
  • Strengthens the immune system: walking has been linked to short-term increases in neutrophils and natural killer cells - key cells that make up a significant portion of our immune response (5)
  • Regulations in autoimmunity: a study assessing older patients with Rheumatoid arthritis who took up a high-intensity interval walking program showed a reduction in disease activity, including significant reductions in ESR, a blood marker associated with Rheumatoid arthritis, and swollen joints (6)
  • Counteracts Obesity Genes: A Harvard study showed the effects of weight-gaining genes were reduced by half in participants who walked briskly for an hour a day. (7)
  • Improves mood and sleep: walking programs have been linked to reductions in anxiety, insomnia, and depression. (8, 9, 10)
  • Opportunity for learning: walking can easily be combined with audio learning; whether it’s podcasts, audiobooks, or language lessons that float your boat, a walk gives you an opportunity to get outside, and take in some new information. But, take care - always ensure that you can hear your surroundings and are walking in a well lit and safe area
  • Boosts creativity: walking, especially when done outside, can increase creativity and novel thoughts (11)

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12439651/

  2. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)62180-2/fulltext

  3. https://movementdisorders.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mds.22293

  4. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00376/full

  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15632669/

  6. https://arthritis-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13075-018-1624-x

  7. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120314142833.htm

  8. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/13697137.2015.1065246

  9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0887618507001806

  10. https://www.nature.com/articles/bjc2014612

  11. https://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2014-14435-001

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