Many of us regularly assume that it only counts as exercise if it is in the gym or we are breaking a hard sweat.
And while it’s true that these are both ways to exercise and are indeed good for us, it’s not the only way.
Increasing research is showing that simply walking may be enough to aid in weight loss, encourage better mood and mental clarity, and decrease risk of several health problems.
Here’s what you need to know about putting one foot in front of the other.
Helps With Weight Loss
If you aren’t a fan of running, hate going to the gym to use the boring machines, and would rather stay away from lifting heavy things, good news: you can go for a walk instead. Losing weight and keeping fit does not have to come just from high intensity exercise or endurance sessions on the treadmill. Brisk walking elevates the heart, increases weight bearing on the joints and body, and burns calories.
For example, a study out of the London School of Economics in 2015 found that people who participated in “regular brisk walking,” for more than half an hour had lower body mass index measurements. The results showed they were placing themselves in the “fat burning zone,” for a beneficial amount of time to see desirable weight loss outcomes.
Boosts Brain Function
Losing weight may be the goal, but there are additional advantages to walking as well. In particular, when it comes to brain health, mental clarity, concentration, and focus. Walking even helps boost creativity: a 2014 study from Stanford University found that walking makes individuals more creatively inspired, increasing creative output by an average of 60 percent.
Many of us have likely experienced these brain benefits, where we go for a walk and come back to tackle a challenging problem and it seems easier, or the solution is clearer. Or those times when you are stressed out and go for a walk, returning to find yourself less stressed and better able to deal with your kids, job and relationship.
Encourages Improved Overall Wellness
While losing weight and having a clearer mind from walking, are certainly great benefits, the advantages go further. Walking helps improve digestion and encourages regular bowel movements. It improves circulation, releases endorphins and hormones which boost your mood, and according to one study, can even add years to your life: walking a little bit faster, helps you live a little bit longer!
The best part though, is that walking is free and accessible. It doesn’t require fancy equipment, a special place to do it, or even a certain amount of time: just heading out for a twenty minute walk on your lunch break is a great way to feel better physically and mentally for the duration of your day.
It’s true that there are benefits to hitting the HIIT session, engaging in strength training, or pounding out a few miles on the trails. But if you are looking for a quick and effective means of exercise, or you are just getting started in the exercise world, take comfort in knowing that just walking, is enough.
By: Laura Peill, RHN, BScH