Greek physician, Hippocrates said: “Walking is a man’s best medicine,” and over 2000 years of medical and scientific research later his statement still holds pretty strong! Even celebrities like Brooke Shields, Katherine Heigl and Bethanny Frankel enjoy a good stroll and there are some amazing health benefits to stretching our legs.
According to researchers at the University of Cambridge, just two and a half hours of walking each week cuts your risk of premature death by a third! Sounds easy, right?! Shockingly, however, the Public Health England (PHE) has found that four out of ten middle-aged adults don’t manage a single ten-minute walk in a MONTH!
1. Improves your mood
Yep, that’s right, aside from providing a literal breath of fresh air a quick walk can help you feel happier! It may take a strong coffee in the morning to get you in the right mindset for the day, however, walking provides a zero-calorie way to boost your mood. Research suggests that regular walking modifies your nervous system so that you’ll experience a decrease in anger and anxiety. What’s more, when you make your walks social and go with a friend or family member. The interaction makes you feel connected to another person, which boosts your mood even further (we recommend leaving your phone at home!). Finally, walking outdoors exposes you to natural sunlight, which staves off Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression affecting people during winter time!
2. Walking fights dementia
Researchers in Canada monitored the lifestyles of a few adults who were at a higher risk of developing dementia for six months. Those who regularly took brisk strolls outside for 2-3 hours per week displayed heightened levels of brain function after the study was finished. This suggests that walking can improve your brain function!
3. It cuts cancer
A recent study of individuals who suffered from breast or bowel cancer suggested that walking can reduce the symptoms. Participants who regularly went on brisk walks were half as likely to pass away from their illness as those who didn’t exercise at all. Those who regularly walked were also less likely to see their disease progress to the next stage – we like those odds, don’t you?
4. Your clothes fit better
This one may seem obvious, but it’s of huge benefit to your overall health, so it’s well worth mentioning. Regular walking tones your muscles and improves your body’s response to insulin, which can help reduce belly fat. And, daily walking increases metabolism by burning extra calories and preventing muscle loss, particularly important as we get older.
5. It helps your heart
Walking is great for your heart, particularly due to it getting blood pumping around the body without putting undue strain on your cardiovascular system. Regular walking reduces the likelihood of nasty cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, heart failure, and heart disease, and the Stroke Association tell us that a 30-minute stroll can keep your blood pressure under control, reducing the risk of suffering a stroke by up to 27%.
6. You’ll feel less ‘backed up’
Regular walks can help the digestive process and reduce the symptoms of constipation! Not the most glamorous of benefits, but something worth noting! If you suffer from constipation, you are probably all too familiar with that heavy, “backed up” feeling that leaves you feeling bloated and sluggish. If this is the case, get ready to start thanking your morning walk for putting you back on the straight and narrow! A regular walking routine greatly improves gastric mobility and gets your digestive system moving along nicely.
These are just a few of the many benefits of taking regular walks, so put those shoes on, open the door and start the journey to your new healthy habit! You can thank us later!
Dr Seth Rankin is founder of London Doctors Clinic