We sit at desks, sit in traffic, and sit at home in front of the TV. Americans have lost touch with the human being’s most basic and unique design function: to walk. Walking daily not only wards off more diseases than you count on both hands, it also soothes the mind, inspires creativity, and heightens the mood. Even if you already work out regularly, walking can still deliver its ancient benefits.
Walking shaped the human brain and keeps it healthy
We departed from the rest of the animal kingdom when we evolved to walk upright on two legs. This adaptation freed our arms and allowed us to conserve energy while moving over long distances, giving us more endurance than any other animal on the planet. The ability to walk also stimulated the development of the human brain into the fascinating and complex organ it is today.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle was known to give his lectures while walking, and many great thinkers since—Henry David Thoreau, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and even Steve Jobs—were known to use long walks to clear the brain and generate new ideas.
Walking is good for those intimidated by exercise
You don’t have to be one of history’s great thinkers to derive the benefits of a daily walk. For Americans who are overworked and overly sedentary, committing to a weight lifting routine or a workout class at the local gym may seem intimidating, overwhelming, or too expensive at first. A daily walk can be an excellent and non-threatening way to embark on an exercise program and reap the many benefits it promises. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll quickly realize it doesn’t require the same level of motivation as something more arduous—walking is a great way to escape and renew yourself on a regular basis.
Health benefits of walking
Walking 30 to 45 minutes at least six days a week along with a healthy diet has been shown to offer the following benefits:
- Shed excess fat
- Reduce blood pressure
- Improve circulation
- Strengthen bones
- Reduce stress
- Prevent depression
- Prevent Type 2 diabetes
- Improve mood and well-being
- Reduce risk of colon and breast cancer
- Prevent heart disease
Walking beneficial even if you work out
If you’re not walking because you already work out regularly, you may be short-changing yourself. For one thing, if you’re a runner, walking instead could save wear and tear on your joints. Newer research has even shown that training for marathons and long distance runs may even damage the heart and arteries.
Because walking has played such an integral role in the development of the human brain, it improves brain health in ways other exercises don’t. Research of adults in their mid 60s showed that an area of the brain called the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory, grew in the subjects who walked regularly compared to subjects who did other forms of exercise. Walking regularly is an excellent way to lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Walking can also stimulate the creative juices that may be put on hold during a weight-training or high-intensity-interval cardiovascular session. For Americans on information overload and inundated with daily distractions, walking slows you down and invites you to soak in the world around you.
Walking also offers a great way to socialize with others. Socialization has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of many disorders, making a walk with friends or family members doubly good for you.