Walking has been celebrated since the dawn of time for its related mental and physical health benefits.
Some of us may complain at the prospect of walking from the car to the shopping door, while others may jump out of bed at the thought of going for their morning walk.
Whether you love it or loath it there is further evidence to prove that there are many health benefits of walking.
New research from Chicago has found that pressure waves from your foot hitting the ground actually increases blood flow to your brain.
While this may seem like an obvious conclusion to some, these findings surprised researchers who originally thought that blood flow to the brain was unaffected by change in blood pressure.
The study used ultrasounds to measure blood flow through the carotid artery, which carries blood to the brain.
In addition to this new find, there are a number of other proven health benefits to walking, including:
1. Boosts heart and lung health
As well as pumping more blood to your brain, a brisk walk increases cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness.
It can also reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol.
2. Lowers your risk of disease
In addition to lowering the risk of heart disease, walking can also reduce the risk of type two diabetes.
Research from the American Heart Association found that walking reduces the risk of diabetes by 12.3% and the risk of coronary heart disease by 9.3%.
3. Increases vitamin D
Going for a 30 minute walk outside each day boosts your vitamin D exposure and may help curb vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D forms when the skin is exposed to UV from sunlight. While this is the major cause of skin cancer in Australia it is also the best source of vitamin D.
Balancing this risk and reward is difficult and the Cancer Council suggests being physically active outdoors in late autumn/early winter will help boost vitamin D levels.
4. Boosts your mood
While the thought of going for a walk might make you groan initially, by the end you’ll be grinning ear to ear.
Exercise of any form release endorphins, known as happy hormones. Endorphins are secreted within the brain and nervous system, releasing a positive feeling.
As well as this, research has found that walking helps promote a positive affect which can override effects of emotions such as dread and boredom.
5. Energises the body
While it seems walking should have the opposite effect it actually increases energy levels. Research from the University of Georgia studied individuals who usually complain about fatigue.
They found that fatigue was reduced by 65% as a result of these individuals participating in regular, low-intensity exercise.
Next time you’re thinking of using too tired for an excuse, walking will do you some good!
So walking is good for you, what now?
Getting the most out of your daily walk comes down to these steps:
1. Slow and steady wins the race – Build up to a brisk walk. You’ll know you are at the ‘brisk’ level if you can still talk but singing is too difficult.
2. Start by walking on flat ground – Begin on level ground and work your way up to hills to push yourself a little further.
3. 30 minute walks are recommended – If this is too much initially, break it up in 10 minute blocks.
4. Make walking fun – Walk with a friend or relative and turn it into a social event instead of a dreaded task.
5. Use a device to count your steps – 10,000 steps per day is the goal for healthy adults.