A walk – so simple but yet so powerful. As I have personally learned, a walk can dramatically improve our lives in so many ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, environmentally and even economically. Here’s a snapshot of some surprising benefits:
Several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain, and walking 5 to 6 miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.
Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of more than 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least five days a week, had 43 percent fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.
When walking, your breathing rate increases, causing oxygen to travel faster through the bloodstream, helping to eliminate waste products and improve your energy level and the ability to heal.
If you move your body regularly you’ll sleep better at night. That’s because physical activity naturally boosts the effects of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
A recent study published in JAMA Neurology found that walking 9,800 steps a day reduces your risk of cognitive impairment by as much as half. Walking 3,000 steps a day improves your chances of avoiding dementia by 25 percent.
Many studies now show that even a brief walk outside can rejuvenate or freshen the mind.
Researchers also found that those who walk 6 to 9 miles a week lowered their risk of memory problems by 50 percent.
Walking releases natural painkilling endorphins to the body – one of the emotional benefits of exercise. A California State University study showed that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were.
Walking outside awakens all of our senses and allows us to fully experience what is in front of us in the present moment, thus decreasing stress.
Dozens of studies have shown that meditation can counter the stresses of everyday life, even at a cellular level. Walking meditation combines the power of meditation with the benefits of movement, fresh air and sunshine.
Walking alone provides an opportunity to get in touch with the universe and a power greater than ourselves, which can promote a feeling of calmness, peace and contentment.
As my friend Jonathan Stalls (author of “Walk: Slow Down, Wake Up and Connect at 1-3 Miles per Hour”) likes to say, unhurried movement enables us to “nurture and tend to the wide variety of relationships around us,” including our world and each other.
One study showed that people who joined walking groups had lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, a lower resting heart rate and more effective weight loss.
Walking with others helps prevent social isolation, which is a known contributor to heart disease.
Every time we walk we reduce the burden of air and noise pollution.
Picking up litter along the way leaves our world in better shape than we found it and provides us with the good feeling of having a sense of purpose.
The more we connect with nature the more likely we are to value protecting our natural environment.
Walking to do errands or make appointments reduces driving, which can save substantially in household expenses, freeing up disposable income for other purposes.
The healthier we are, the less we have to spend on medical care.
If you’re convinced, I invite you to join me in a new weekly walk (or roll) and talk starting at 9 a.m. Jan. 3. We welcome people of all ages and abilities to participate, and we will meet at the Monarch Spur Trail and Third Street (next to Safeway) for one hour. No fee or registration required – just show up.
If you are interested in starting your own walking group, a free “Walking Leadership Training” will be offered from 1-4 p.m. Jan. 17. To register, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marilyn Bouldin is a volunteer for Age Strong Chaffee/Chaffee Walks.