A brisk walk every day can do wonders for your health and wellbeing. But why is walking so good for you?
Here in Norway there are plenty of opportunities to go out for a walk. It would be no exaggeration to say that Norwegians are among the world’s keenest walkers. A brisk walk is actually the most common form of exercise among people in Norway, according to Statistics Norway (SSB).
But going for a walk is far more beneficial than merely being a good way to exercise. Walks can give a greater sense of freedom – and enable you to live a fuller life.
We have compiled a list of seven excellent reasons why you should put on your shoes and go out for a walk:
1) Reduced risk of heart problems
In a study carried out by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the USA, 15,945 walkers were compared with 33,060 runners. The results showed that those who went for regular walks reduced their risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as those who ran regularly.
According to the Norwegian Heart and Lung Association (LHL), it is important to emphasise that exercise, even at lower doses, is good for your health.
2) Weight reduction/weight control
Even though you don’t burn off as many calories by walking as you do with more intensive forms of exercise, the effect of a brisk walk is not to be sniffed at. In one hour, you can easily burn off 200–300 calories. But it is not just the calorie consumption itself that makes it easier to lose weight or maintain your weight. Stress reduction is one of the many factors that indirectly helps you keep the kilos from piling on.
3) Gives you energy
You may be putting off adopting a more active lifestyle because you think you are too tired to put on your shoes and go for a walk. In this situation, it is a good idea to focus on the long-term benefits – even though that is often easier said than done. The thing is that once you push through the barriers and start walking, it is highly likely that you will gradually feel less tired and find you actually have more energy.
4) Fitness boost
Walking at a medium or fast pace increases your overall level of fitness. This in turn will make your walks easier and you will feel generally less tired, e.g. when you are carrying all those shopping bags up the stairs. Being fitter also strengthens your heart and boosts your metabolism.
5) Anywhere, any time
Isn’t it wonderful not to have to fit your schedule around opening hours, waiting lists for group sessions or queues to use the treadmill?
Unlike most other activities, you can go for a walk anywhere at any time, without being dependent on equipment or opening hours.
6) Stress reduction
When you walk quickly, your body starts to produce endorphins, which are known to lessen pain and make you relax. In particular, walking in the countryside has proved to be a powerful tool for reducing stress.
Gregory Bratman of Stanford University in California is one of the scientists who have shown this to be the case. He found that walking in the countryside reduces the flow of blood to those parts of the brain that are most active in connection with worrying and thinking.
7) Walking can be enough exercise
The Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends that all adults are physically active for at least 30 minutes a day. The level of intensity should be at least medium, e.g. a brisk walk.
According to the authorities, therefore, you can be getting enough exercise even if the only physical activity you do during the week is go for walks.
Footwear makes a difference
As previously mentioned, walking gives you plenty of benefits without the need for special equipment or a fitness centre. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to give a thought to what you put on your feet – so your walks are as enjoyable as possible.
If you do a lot of walking, the strain on your feet can be quite substantial. When you walk, the effects of gravity mean your foot must sustain a mass 1.5–2.5 greater than your bodyweight coming down on it. That requires considerable stability in the ankle joints.
Shoes that are badly designed and offer poor support can make you put your foot down awkwardly, which in turn can lead to pain and discomfort all over your body. In general, it is a good idea to wear a pair of jogging shoes when going for a walk – not the oldest, most worn-out shoes you find at the back of the wardrobe.
That said, the most important thing is to get up, get outside and get walking. And take pleasure in all the positive effects you will achieve by doing so.