National Walking Month has been celebrated by people across the world since 2007. The campaign is run by Living Streets, a charity dedicated to walking more in a world where you may rely on cars and public transport.
The organisation also push for better walking environments in the UK. This includes tackling air pollution as well as making routes to school safer for children to walk.
If you’re considering taking part in the festivities this year, here are six ways walking can benefit you.
1. Weight loss
If your new year’s resolution was to get into shape, you’ll know that two important factors affect your weight: exercise and your diet. Amazingly, walking can help with both.
Brisk walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise since you don’t need any expensive equipment to start – only a pair of shoes and somewhere to walk. Walking fast enough to increase your heart rate is an effective but simple way of burning calories.
A Harvard study also found that the effects of weight-promoting genes were cut in half in participants who walked briskly for an hour every day. So once you have reached your goal weight, walking is a brilliant way to keep yourself in shape!
As for diet, a 15-minute walk can reduce your cravings for sugary foods. This will allow you to keep eating healthy foods when you might be tempted otherwise. And since walking is a great way to relieve stress, it can also diminish the amount of unhealthy food you are eating overall.
2. Improve your physical health
Walking can reduce your risk of falling ill. It boosts your immune system, which means you are less likely to catch illnesses, and if you do, the symptoms can be milder and won’t last as long.
It can also help you improve your productivity. The research found that people who walked for at least 20 minutes a day on five days out of the week had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. Taking less time off to nurse yourself back to health means that you have more free time to work towards your goals!
Furthermore, walking can also reduce your risk of getting more serious illnesses. An American Cancer Society study found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer a week.
3. Boost your mood
There is also evidence to suggest that walking can have a significant impact on your mental health.
There are a host of positive side effects that can benefit your mental state. Walking can improve the quality of your sleep, which will allow you to feel rested and prepared for the next day. It can also reduce stress levels and so your blood pressure, aiding your mental and physical health at the same time.
A Finnish study discovered that going on three or four walks a week is associated with 33% lower odds of using mental health drugs. Although taking any prescribed medication is crucial, spending 20 minutes a day going on a brisk walk can improve your mood remarkably.
4. Enhance creativity and concentration
Researchers at Stanford University found that the act of walking can boost creative inspiration. The walking group of participants in their study produced twice as many creative responses compared to those who remained sitting down.
The fascinating detail about their discovery is that the environment you are walking in has no impact on creativity levels. People who walked on a treadmill indoors facing a blank wall produced near identical results to those who spent time walking in nature.
If you’re struggling to squeeze a walk into your busy schedule, consider purchasing a treadmill desk so you can reap all of the benefits of walking without having to leave the house.
5. It’s easy to incorporate into your routine
There is a huge amount of research about how long and how far you should walk each day, so you must find a combination that works for you. However, there are some agreed upon suggestions to help you form a new habit.
You should be walking for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. However, it doesn’t have to be a consecutive 30 minutes. If you are only beginning to introduce walks into your routine, consider adding two 15-minute walks to your day instead of one longer one.
Simply parking a few minutes away from your destination or choosing to walk somewhere rather than taking public transport is an easy way to add in a short walk, and it is better for the environment.
Ideally, you should be walking at a pace of 80 to 112 steps a minute. Tracking these can be more difficult, but as long as you are walking fast enough to increase your breathing and heart rate, you’re doing well.
Most modern phones and smartwatches have a pedometer function. However, you can also download the NHS Active 10 app, which counts your steps as well as allowing you to set goals for how many minutes of brisk walking you do each day.
6. Make friends
Joining a walking community can help you to stay consistent with your goals, as well as making the exercise more fun as you can meet new people at the same time.
Whether you join an online walking group or find one local to your area, the support can push you to improve your health even further. There is also a myriad of tips and tricks to make your walks more enjoyable.
Some groups even run competitions where you contend to find out who can do the largest number of steps in a set time. And there are often other walking events you can take part in throughout the year, so the fun doesn’t have to end after this year’s National Walking Month.