This is the time of year when the sun starts to get up a bit earlier and go down a little later, which give of us more time to get out and walk either before or after work. We always recommend walking to our patients as a safe and easy way to get more exercise and improve core strength, but there are many more benefits to daily walking that may not be so obvious. Not only does walking affect your physical health, but new studies are showing mental health improvements as well as changes to they way your genes function! Let’s review!
Surprising benefits of walking:
Walking directly effects gene function:
Many people use walking as way to control weight and increase calories expenditure. As it turns out the effects of daily brisk walking have a deeper effect on the human body. A recent Harvard study looked at 32 specific genes that are responsible for weight gain in over 12,00 participants. The study found the activity of these genes was cut in half in those people in the group who walked at least 30 minutes every day. This study demonstrated walking having a direct impact on the gene activities that are responsible overall body composition, how much muscle and fat their bodies contained.
Reduces the chances of many types of cancers:
Both the National Institute of Health and the American Cancer Society found that people who walked on a regular basis significantly reduced their chances of developing 7 different types of cancers (colon cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, kidney cancer, multiple myeloma, liver cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma). These studies demonstrated that even participants who were at high risk for cancer due to obesity, or even hormonal treatments saw a reduction in their incidence of cancer strictly due to walking.
Improves overall mental health:
Several studies have looked at how regular walking effects mental health and brain function. There seems to be a direct correlation between the endorphins released by regular walking and its affect on several aspects of mental health. These noted changes affected markers like improved overall mood, a reduction in stress, improved sleep quality, increased feelings of self-esteem, and stronger levels of creativity, just to name a few. These studies haver provided evidence that walking impacts more than just physical health. It is also important to note that these benefits seemed to be greatly increased if the walking was done outside as opposed to walking indoors on a treadmill.
Less joint pain:
Walking has also been shown to prevent the formation of osteoarthritis in the major joints of the lower extremities, which include the ankles, knees, and hips. Patient who already had joint pain saw a great reduction in arthritis pain with regular walking.
Walking is a great time to practice good posture and improve muscle tone. When walking always remember to stand tall, while holding your shoulders down and back. When walking always keep your abs tights, and squeeze the glutes when pushing off of your back foot on each stride. You want to feel as if you are exaggerating good posture, as this is an excellent way to train those weak that gives most the dreaded forward rounded shoulder posture.
Things to keep in mind about walking:
Now that we know what great benefits regular walking provides, it is important to go over some important tips before we begin our March towards Better Health.
Make sure you are wearing comfortable supportive shoes. Going to a running shoe store is a great idea to make sure that you are fitted for a shoe that provides good support for your specific feet. Shoes that have a toe box wide enough for your toes to move freely, as well as provide enough flexibility for your toes to push off comfortably. Most walking shoes have a rounded heal, that will aid with the needed rolling motion to go from heel to toe.
Stretching is always a good idea before beginning any type of physical activity, and walking is no different. Make sure you take at least 5 minutes to stretch your legs gently with a focus on your calves and hamstrings.
Make sure you are not doing too much too soon. Slowly build up your tolerance to walking by starting simple and easy so that you are more likely to continue walking in the future, and are not held back by pain or muscle soreness. It is a good idea to add a minute per week to your walking routine to allow your body to adapt to the increase workload.
When going walking bring a buddy, even if they have 4 legs. Several studies showed that people who brough a friend along, even a fury one, were more likely to continue walking and reported enjoying the activity more so than those who routinely walked alone.
Getting adjusted can also improve walking performance, as you hips, back and knees will be under less stress with weekly walking.
How can you increase your walking each week? We would love to hear some of your tips as well as knowing what regular walking means to you. Feel free to email us back or leave a comment on our Facebook page!