Why walking? Health benefits for people

There is a now a large body of evidence that shows walking is one of the most accessible and impactful forms of exercise that humans can undertake to maintain a healthy body and mind.

Walking for our body

Walking is increasingly now being seen as one of the best ways for people to maintain a healthy active lifestyle.

For instance, walking for just 10 minutes every day briskly has been shown by Public Health England to improve physical health conditions for both children and adults such as diabetes, asthma, obesity, blood pressure and arthritis as well as reduce the likelihood of developing long term health conditions such as heart disease and cancer. With childhood obesity on the rise in Western countries and inactivity playing a big part in this, fitting as much activity into childrens’ day to day life is essential for them to reach the recommended 90 minutes of daily physical activity.

Keeping active every day and avoiding being sedentary for long periods of time is also essential and a big issue for our increasingly more computer based lifestyles. Experts recommend that we ensure we are not sitting for longer than 30 minutes by standing up and walking for at least 2 minutes every half an hour.

Research in 2019 went even further to show that in order to reduce the negative impacts of sitting and reduce the risk of early death, humans needs to accumulate as much activity during each day as possible – and the US longitudinal study with 8,000 participants have shown that replacing sitting with moving reduced the risk of death. The message is clear sitting (and not walking or moving) will increase your risk of death, even if you sit for short or long periods.

The adage that if you don’t use it you lose it applies to older adults too and walking is a great way of ensuring that as we get older we maintain our ability to be independent and physically able and active and has been shown to reduce mortality rates and even decrease cognitive decline.

NICE guidelines, which are the UK’s central scientific health body, now place active travel and policies which promote it at the top of the agenda when it comes to promoting healthy lifestyles.

Walking for our mind

In addition to all the physical health benefits, walking has also been shown to improve a wide variety of mental health issues ranging from depression, anxiety to stress; as well as improving people’s feelings of wellbeing and satisfaction.

“Every truly great idea was conceived by walking”

– Nietzsche 

The improvements to our brains don’t stop at wellbeing, walking and being active has also been linked with improving the performance of our brain. With research highlighting how walking and being active increases mental focus, creativity by 60%, productivity levels and efficiency in employees that go out for regular walks during their working day compared to those that stay at their desk.

The benefits that walking can bring to us all is especially relevant given the increasingly more common digital lives that humans across the world are leading both in our personal and work lives. This way promoting and encouraging walking and being active is going to be ever more essential for maintaining healthy humans as we move into the future.

In summary – walking is great for the health of people of all ages and abilities. And it should be as its about the most natural form of movement that we have been using for millennia.

Published May 2019