Physical activity, such as walking, provides a range of health benefits for both the body and mind. These benefits vary from lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease to improving mood and self-esteem.
Walking is a low-cost and accessible form of physical activity. As with many exercises, the most challenging aspect is getting started. Walking, on the other hand, requires minimal preparation and yields significant health benefits such as weight loss, increased fitness levels and lower blood pressure.
Walking has always been considered as a simple yet effective way to promote physical health. Numerous studies have shown that it regularly can improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, and help maintain a healthy weight.
However, walking has also been found to have a positive impact on mental and cognitive health too. Here are some of the associated benefits:
- Increased endorphin levels: Regular walking enhances the natural release of endorphins which stimulate relaxation and improve your mood. These chemicals work by interacting with receptors in your brain to reduce the perceptions of pain and give feelings of wellbeing.
- Improved body confidence: As mentioned, obesity has become a significant risk factor for mental health issues. Body image concerns have become a prevalent occurrence in modern society. Over a third of UK adults have felt anxious or depressed because of concerns about their body. Going for regular walks can promote weight loss and body satisfaction, which promotes better wellbeing.
- Enhance focus: Taking part in exercise can help you stay focused and solve problems more efficiently. Aerobic exercises such as taking a walk increase blood flow to the brain, which stimulates cognitive function and concentration. As a result, brief bouts of walking throughout your day can promote focus in the workplace. Additionally, it can also help you live longer by reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.
- Promotes mindfulness: By concentrating on each individual step, walking can become a mindful practice, placing emphasis on the present moment. Like meditation, mindful walking provides an easy technique to reduce anxiety and create feelings of wellbeing.
- Better sleep: Research suggests that engaging in regular walking can improve sleep. Aerobic exercises increase the amount of deep sleep you get. This type of sleep allows the brain and body to rest.
- Reduced social isolation: As we all know too well, the pandemic brought on feelings of loneliness for much of the population. Isolation periods and ‘stay-at-home’ orders means that we couldn’t socialise with our loved ones, and for some, the effects of this have remained long after Covid rules were lifted. Social isolation is a significant risk factor for mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and so walking can be a simple way to increase interaction and communication by joining walking groups or walking with friends.
- Financial: As well as the various physical and mental benefits that come with walking, it can also save you money. Gym memberships and home exercise equipment can become quite costly, whereas walking needn’t cost you a penny.
Thinking of swapping the commute for walking as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer?
FIVE SIMPLE STEPS TO HELP MAKE YOUR WALK TO WORK AS SUCCESSFUL AS POSSIBLE:
- Be prepared: Because you are making a change from your usual daily routine and commute, it would be wise to set your alarm early, pack your bag the night before and make sure you get plenty of sleep.
- Plan your route: Make sure you plan the route before setting off. Consider timings, terrain and your personal safety. This will ensure that you arrive at work on time in a motivated and comfortable manner.
- Pick your footwear: Swap your work-shoes for a pair of comfy trainers or hiking shoes to help make your journey as smooth as possible.
- Be realistic: If you don’t live within a sensible distance to your workplace, then you don’t need to set yourself the task of walking the entire journey to still reap the benefits. Adjustments can be made, such as, taking public transport for a portion of the journey, or parking your car a sufficient distance away from your workplace, and walking the remainder.
- Check the weather: Make sure that you are fully prepared for what the weather has in store. Pack a bag with waterproofs or an umbrella for any weather-related emergencies.
WALKING PROMOTES POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH
Walking has been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Walking produces a calming effect on the brain, releases endorphins, reduces muscle tension and heart rate, and grants a sense of accomplishment and confidence. Walking in nature can also provide a sense of solitude and tranquillity, which can be particularly beneficial in reducing stress levels. Regular walking is one of the most simple yet effective ways to promote mental health and improve overall wellbeing.
As CEO of Health Assured, the UK and Ireland's leading health and wellbeing services provider, Bertrand Stern-Gillet is experienced in business development, operations, technology, finance, and M&A. He previously served as CEO of the Peninsula Group's fledgling Canadian operations, navigating them through the 2020-21 global pandemic, whilst increasing the client base and improving profitability.