I’ve always enjoyed going for a walk, but never really saw it as a exercise. It’s worked to clear my head, diffuse my anger, and give me a healthy glow, but over the years it’s been kind of an add on to my “real” workouts.
But this spring, my husband and I moved out of our house in the suburbs to an area of the city that is infinitely walkable, and I feel healthier now than I have in years.
I’ve always liked exploring when I’m visiting a new city. After visiting Chicago, New York, or even cities out of the country, I’d always expect to gain weight from all of the foods that I try. But, because of all the walking, I usually come out even when I get home.I never made the connection that maybe it’s because I was walking so much !
I’ve already written about my Fitbit obsession, and this move has taken it to a new level. The move itself involved cleaning, packing, running bags of clothing to donate and lots of stairs. I thought I’d hit my highest step goal then.
However, moving day brought a lot of surprises. My storage closets are on the other side of my building, as is the trash bin, so it’s quite a few steps back and forth just for that.
And once we are home, we don’t have to drive to all of the places I used to go daily. The grocery store, pharmacy, restaurants, bars and shops are all walkable. I now justify getting a Jeni’s ice cream cone by the fact that it’s 1,000 steps each way walking , so I must burn off at least some of the calories!
The best part is that we live one block from Forest Park in St Louis. I had been to the park before and driven by many times. I had driven to it’s museums, zoo, and theaters, and went to specific events, but I had never actually walked through the amazing landscape and pathways!
And as much as I still love my gym workouts, the health benefits of walking are many! Harvard researchers note :
It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes. Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were cut in half.
It helps tame a sweet tooth. A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research confirms that walking can reduce cravings and intake of a variety of sugary snacks.
It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking 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 per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.
It eases joint pain. Several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain, and that walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.
It boosts immune function. Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.
So grab your fitness tracker, lace up your shoes and get out there. No equipment needed. Even a daily walk around the block can boost your health and clear your head, so why not give it a try?