Long ago, walking was basically the only form of transportation humans had. Going from one place to the next meant using our own two feet to get there, but luckily, our bodies are designed for walking. As time passed, we found new ways to get around a bit more quickly, from horses and bicycles to cars and Segways. Today, most people even search for the closest parking spot to the door when heading to the grocery store, just to avoid a long walk to get inside!
However, there are certain benefits of walking- especially for seniors- that cannot be denied. Adding walking to your daily routine not only helps you avoid a sedentary lifestyle, but improves your health in more ways than one!
People who regularly walk four times per week for at least 15 minutes live longer and healthier lives compared to those who are more sedentary, according to one study. Walking regularly helps maintain healthy body weight, reduce high blood pressure, decreases the risk for type 2 diabetes, and promotes a strong musculoskeletal system. Furthermore, walking actually helps decrease symptoms of chronic pain, which makes it a great activity for those with joint problems or low back pain. Taken together, we can probably understand why people who regularly walk live much healthier lives.
But there are other fascinating aspects of walking that don’t get much attention — and totally should!
Soon after starting your walk, you begin to notice that your thoughts are calmer; your worries are erased, and you start observing the world in a different light. That fresh breath of air flows in from the tip of your nose and expands your lungs; when you exhale, you release your stress away. You look up at the big blue sky, and see the clouds slowly walking with you. The leaves of the trees are rustling in the wind, and birds are flying around you.
There is something different about walking that induces a mindfulness state compared to other types of physical activity, but what could it be? While it is not completely understood, a group of scientists are beginning to believe that the body’s natural painkillers, produced by the endocannabinoid system, may play an important role in giving you that relaxing feeling you get from walking or other forms of exercise. Walking is such a strong mood enhancer that it can significantly decrease symptoms of stress, such as anxiety, sadness, fatigue, and lack of motivation.
But wait, there’s more…
Walking can also be a social activity. Walking with a friend or your dog, or merely saying hello to other walkers, can increase your enjoyment. It can also be a learning activity, giving you a moment to listen to your favorite podcast or book and actually pay attention to it. Going for a walk does not cost any money, does not require a structured plan, and yet brings more benefits than you may have realized.
We challenge you to take a 15 minute (or longer) walk each day for the next week. Enjoy it out in nature if you can, and don’t forget to add in some Oxycise breaths as you go. Happy walking!
Share your progress in our September Healthy Aging Challenge in our private Facebook group.