What are the real benefits of walking?
The answer should be obvious shouldn’t it? Walking is a form of exercise and exercise is good for us, right?
Well, that’s not the full story. Indeed, we need exercise in order to stay fit and healthy, but did you know that walking can have a huge effect on our brains? In fact, by walking regularly, we can help to prevent certain illnesses and significantly reduce the symptoms of others.
So let’s look at what these benefits are…
Walking can help with depression
Have you ever gone for a walk not really wanting to go but when you came home you felt better? That’s because walking helps the body to produce endorphins. These endorphins are our happy neurochemicals and natural antidepressants. The more of these we have floating around in brains, the happier we feel.
Some studies show aerobic exercise to be crucial for improving depression with running and walking topping the list. One Harvard study showed that exercise is every bit as powerful as medication for treating the symptoms and root causes of depression.
Did you know it takes just 10 minutes of walking to produce endorphins which can naturally help prevent and reduce symptoms of depression and low mood?
Walking can help make us smarter
Walking can indeed allow us to become smarter individuals. There is a part of our brain called the hippocampus that helps us to learn and remember things. Walking can help to grow this specific part of the brain which lets us absorb more information. So, if you’re currently studying or have an exam due, it might be worth having a break and heading outside for walk. You will be doing your brain a big favour!
Walking can help with anxiety and trauma
The hippocampus in our brain that is responsible for learning and memory also plays a pivotal role in anxiety and trauma. Where walking increases this part of the brain, it can help naturally reduce the symptoms we feel if we have anxious thoughts caused by traumatic events.
Walking can reduce the risk of dementia
Research shows that people who took greater amounts of exercise and walking tend to have more ‘gray matter’ in the brain. Gray matter is an indicator of brain health, the more we have the better it is. When volume decreases, it means brain cells are dying.
One study observed that walking just five miles per week improved the brain’s resistance to Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment and also reduced memory loss. According to MRI scans, brain gray matter was preserved in healthy adults who walked at least five miles per week therefore, reducing the risk of dementia.
Walking can help us become more creative
Did you know that Steve Jobs insisted on walking meetings with business associates at Apple, especially when creative problem solving was required?
Many famous authors such as Henry David Thoreau, L.M. Montgomery, J.K. Rowling, and Ernest Hemingway have also claimed that walking is the only reliable cure to writer’s block. Science has indeed confirmed what these people already knew; that walking does give us the power to be more creative and encourages our ideas to flow.
Walking creates headspace
…And I’m not talking about the app. (Although headspace is a fantastic resource for mental health too) Walking gives your mind the time to ‘zone out’ or ‘re-focus’ on any plans or responsibilities you may have. It has the power to be incredibly grounding and help with mindfulness and gratitude practices too. Try saying to yourself ‘I am grateful for the world around me’ when you’re next out for a walk and notice the trees, birds, sunshine or anything else you might pass on your journey. Looking up and observing your surroundings and feeling grateful for them can be incredibly satisfying.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your boots that were made for walking and enjoy the wonderful benefits that walking has to offer.
If you are feeling low, worried or stressed and need to talk to someone, please do not struggle on alone. I can offer a 15 minute free telephone consultation to see if I can help you. Email Naomi@lifecarecounselling.com for more information.