During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, most of us would admit to gaining a pound or two because of staying at home and restrictions on going to the gym. But did you realize that just taking a walk around your neighborhood can have a beneficial effect on your health? This post will describe the health effects of simple walking.
- What is Walking?
- How Do You Walk?
- What are the Benefits of Walking?
What is Walking?
Walking is a type of cardiovascular activity that increases blood flow and reduces blood pressure. With increased blood flow, oxygen and hormones like endorphins can circulate throughout the body.
Walking is different from standing still. A 2020 study comparing quasi-static standing and walking found that while standing increases the likelihood of lower leg swelling and muscle fatigue, walking did not.
Walking is different from running. A 2006 study investigating the physiological and kinematic difference between the two forms of location found the key difference is that of the timing of each phase of locomotion.
The appropriate walking pace is a metabolic equivalent (MET) of 3.0 – 6.0, or 2.5 – 4.2 mph.
How Do You Walk?
Before the walk: before you set out to walk, a few steps of preparation can make your walk more enjoyable.
- Plan your route. Before you head out, planning ahead of time where you want to visit will make your walk more rewarding. If you want to walk without a plan, remember that disappointments are part of the process! Keep walking, and you will find the enjoyable journey of walking. Also, make sure that the neighborhood is safe. If you have a reward at the end of your trip, such as ice cream at the end of the walk, it will make your journey more rewarding! Sidewalks are generally recommended; if there is a school, a public park, or even a shopping mall nearby, give them a try!
- Protect yourself. Make sure to wear sunscreen and sunglasses if it is hot outside. Bringing a small backpack to pack your sanitary items and water bottle can be helpful!
- Wear your gear. Wear comfortable shoes wear. If it is hot outside, wearing shoes has a soft cushion and ventilation can be helpful! If it is cold outside, make sure to wear something that will help you prevent from slipping. Wear a smartwatch that can track your walk progress if you’d like.
- Stretch. Before you head out, stretching can help you prevent injuries such as falls and slipping.
During the walk: Mayo Clinic outlines simple tips on how to walk effectively:
- Keep your head up. Look forward, not towards the ground.
- Keep your neck, shoulders, and back relaxed, not stiff.
- Tighten your stomach muscle slightly to keep your back straight.
- Start each step rolling from hill to toe.
After the walk, rehydrate or have a light snack, such as a banana, to refuel. Write about any thoughts that you had during your walk.
What are the Benefits of Walking?
Improving Cognitive Level & Mood
Walking, in general, is more beneficial than not walking. However, walking outdoors is recommended compared to walking indoors. An ECG study conducted in 2018 showed that walking outdoors instead of indoors has a higher likelihood and more extended period of “meditative state.” In 2020, another study compared physical exercise with walking in nature and found that walking in nature lowered cortisol (stress hormone) levels and improved mood.
Studies have found protective effects of walking by reducing the risk of diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. The 2018 Physical Activity Guideline for Americans recommends walking at least 150-300 minutes(2.5h-5h)/week. Walking can help improve body weight, teeth cavities, and diabetes by lowering cravings for sweet things like chocolate. It can even influence the gene expressions related to obesity to reduce the likelihood of obesity, according to a 2006 study. American Cancer Society found that women who walked> 7 hours per week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked < 3 hours per week. Another study showed that those who walked 20 minutes daily for at least 5 days a week had 43% lower sick days.
Walking is a simple activity that many people can engage in. There are a few steps that you can take to make this experience more efficient and pleasurable. It is one of the examples where you can find significant health effects with gradual effort. Try taking a walk today!
Disclaimer: This web post is for information purposes. If you have medical needs, please contact your primary care physician.
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