The world’s oldest form of exercise (and possibly the most underrated), walking is truly one of the best things you can do for your health.
The Greek physician and “father of medicine,” Hippocrates, said it best in the 4th Century B.C. when he declared, “Walking is man’s best medicine.”
The multiple health benefits of walking for your brain and body are so great that the U.S. Surgeon General is on a mission to get Americans walking with a program titled Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities.
If you’re already fit and active, or sedentary and wanting to be healthier, walking can help you. It can provide a gentler way to move your body when that’s needed, or it can be your pathway to becoming active.
Versatile, low-impact, and best of all, free, walking is available to all.
Here are several benefits to walking to inspire you to take a daily stroll…or two!
Benefits of Walking for Your Overall Health
Walking releases natural, happiness-boosting and pain/stress–reducing endorphins to the body. A California State University, Long Beach, medical researcher found through the course of numerous studies that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were. Additionally, more recent research showed that higher objectively assessed exercise was correlated with a better mood.
When you walk in the morning, it can help align your body’s natural internal clock with sunlight, which helps regulate healthy melatonin levels that make you sleepy at night and support a better night’s sleep. Exercise at any time of day (except for 90 minutes before bedtime) additionally helps your body fall into deep sleep. Of course, improved sleep has a host of its own benefits!
If you’re needing creative inspiration or even problem-solving ideas, take a stroll. A new study by Stanford researchers shows that creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter.
And you can walk indoors or outdoors. The act of walking itself, and not the environment, is what helped creative thinking. Across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting.
All those great ideas may be a result of the brain health-boosting effects of walking. Walking daily can increase levels of a critical protein in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Greater BDNF in the brain supports structural remodeling and growth synapses after learning, which helps to improve cognitive function and make your brain more resilient.
Research shows that age-related memory decline is lower in people who walk more. A study focused on men between the ages of 71 and 93 showed that those who walked more than a quarter mile a day had half the incidence of neurodegenerative issues than those who walked less!
Research shows that sexual function (arousal) for both sexes is supported by healthy circulation and blood flow to the genitals. Aerobic exercise like brisk walking helps to improve cardiovascular function, and boosts sexual response.
Perhaps that’s why one Harvard study found that just 30 minutes of walking a day was linked with a 41% drop in risk for erectile dysfunction (ED). Other research suggests that moderate exercise can help restore sexual performance in overweight middle-aged men with ED. Of course, if you walk with your partner, there’s the emotional well-being that comes from a shared activity too.
And Much More…
Walking is additionally correlated with stress relief, greater longevity, weight loss, healthier joints, glowing skin, stronger muscles, improved energy, digestive health, and less bone mass loss and less fat in aging women, to name a few.
Because walking can basically take place anytime, anywhere, indoors or outdoors, it’s a great go-to movement activity to sprinkle throughout your day.
While you can go for an hour-long, 4-mile walk every day, you don’t need to. You can take shorter walks throughout your day. They will provide a great refresh between work periods.
Choosing to walk outdoors in nature provides an extra benefit as time spent in nature can boost your mood, reduces stress, and improve your outlook.
If you’re trying to achieve the recommendation of both The American College of Sports Medicine and the World Health Organization to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per week (roughly 30 minutes per day, five days of the week), walking is great way to get you to that goal.
If you’re also getting the recommended two days or more of weight training each week, a walk is a great counter exercise on your “off” days from weight training.
Find yourself a comfortable and supportive pair of walking shoes, and you’re good to go.
Enjoy your walk!
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