Let’s face it. Most of us sit on our butts for the majority of the day. Our legs crossed, our eyes and necks straining towards our screens. Even if you stand for a few hours or even if you hit the gym a few times a week, your average daily step count could probably use a little attention. Not convinced that walking is that important? Here’s what we know about getting your steps in and how it can improve your daily life!
According to a study done by Harvard, walking can lower blood pressure, boost energy levels, release happy hormones, strengthen joints and muscles, and lower your risk for disease! Technically, walking is a form of cardio. Though it’s less destructive on your body than spending hours on the elliptical or forcing yourself to run if you hate it.
The low intensity of walking is actually really good for your body. Walking, when compared to jogging and running, has proven over and over to be just as useful for preventing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and many more unpleasant negative health symptoms. Not to mention it can help to shift body composition, lower your risk of stroke and heart disease, and even prolong your life.
However, a quicker paced walk is more beneficial than a leisurely stroll. The Harvard study on walking says that a pace of 2.5 to 4.2 miles per hour is most beneficial for the body! But even more important than pace is how many steps you’re taking each day.
Right now, 10k-a-day is trendy. Everywhere you look, people are recommending you hit your 10 thousand step-count each and every day. But did you know that the average American only really takes about 4,800 steps a day? Adding an extra 5 thousand is no easy feat! When it comes down to it, the “10k steps movement” has nothing to do with science and everything to do with mass influencing.
Science has shown that taking at least 8k steps each day can reduce mortality rate by over 50% compared to people who take less than 4k steps per day. Another study showed that people who get in at least 4,400 steps have more than 40% better chance at living long lives than those who only get 2,700. It’s safe to assume that getting 10k steps each day is really great for your overall health, but it’s not a magic number.
With all the evidence out there about walking being related to better cardiovascular health, less chance for disease, and longer life, you might as well get started today! Don’t worry, you don’t have to get all your steps in at once. Take a 10 or 20-minute break a few times a day and go for a brief walk. Try new ways to work walking into your daily routine! Your body will thank you for it.
Scientists are continually finding new ways to prove that getting in some steps each day is a good way to keep gloomy feelings away. Think about this; walking can be such a powerful symbol for happiness and confidence – taking powerful strides, chest out and shoulders back, with your chin up and a soft smile on your face. Our bodies were made to move, and our brains know it!
Some studies have shown that moderate exercise like walking can have a similar impact as antidepressant medication. When we walk, blood flow to our brain drastically improves as the time and steps add up. Psychiatry professionals at Harvard have conducted studies that show that the parts of our brains that are responsible for nerve cell growth are stimulated and work more coherently with exercise. Basically, after exercise, the genes in nerve cells that signal a cell to make proteins for boosting nerve cell growth are more active! Isn’t that fascinating? Which means that we are ultimately creating our “BETTER SELF”!
Walking also has a highly potent impact on our HPA axis – the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, that is. The HPA axis is a huge part of how our body regulates our central nervous response system, aka how and when we feel stress. With persistent, moderate exercise, our bodies can become better at regulating cortisol, the stress hormone, and we can teach our brains to mitigate better in stressful situations.
Iowa State’s psychiatric department conducted a study that showed that walking for even just 12 minutes can kickstart all these wonderful mood benefits. Participants in the study reported feelings of joy, vigor, and improved self-image. Just 12 minutes is fantastic, but when it comes to walking, it’s less about how long you walk or how many steps you take and more about being consistent with your routine. Walking for 12 minutes every few days may improve your mood directly after the activity, but if you want to see lasting mood improvement and mental clarity, you should try and fit in a long walk (45 minutes or more) 4 to 7 times a week!
Regular walking can do so much more for you than improve your fitness and your mood (though both are great benefits). If you take advantage of the time you spend getting your steps in, you can drastically improve your mindset and become the best version of you possible.
Walking significantly improves mental clarity, both overtime with consistency and during and directly after the activity. Many people have some of their best ideas while walking. If you take the time to drown out the noise of the busy world, you could have some big breakthroughs!
Don’t take your cell phone with you while you walk. Focus instead on your surroundings, your breathing, quieting your thoughts, and looking inward. Use this time intentionally to reflect on who you are now and who you want to be. What do you need to do to get there? Try to focus on creating new goals for yourself. Focus on habits you have that are no longer serving you, and fire them from your life for good!
If you truly take advantage of the heightened mental clarity that comes with walking, you can undoubtedly change your mindset and sharpen yourself to become a little bit better with each step, which ultimately leads to Firing Your Old Self, and creating a New Better Self, while remembering, Life’s Short, Love the Life You Live!!