Walk it off
Accessible and easy to add into your daily routine, walking is pretty much one of the best ways to get active. As the ancient Greek philosopher, Hippocrates once said: "Walking is a man's best medicine." And the research concurs: a recent study showed that a just one 10-minute walk a week can decrease your risk of early death. So isn't it time you tied up your shoelaces and made the most of this free and uplifting activity?
We've pulled together some of the main benefits of walking more to encourage you to step to it.
Put your best foot forward to...
Maintain or improve overall health
Whether you walk the kids to school, commute on your feet or go for a daily stroll at lunch, aim to get 30 minutes on your feet a day. Research has shown that this can help reduce the risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes by helping control blood sugar levels. A walk will also help decrease high blood pressure, obesity and heart and cardiovascular diseases. So what are you waiting for? Get moving on your feet.
Help you sleep better
If you want to sleep better, add a daily walk to your routine. Your quality of shut-eye will improve as well as the time it takes to fall asleep. In fact, walking has been found to have positive effects on circadian rhythms (National Sleep Foundation). In other words, it can help get your body clock back in check, especially if you head out first thing in the morning and expose yourself to daylight.
Improve mental wellbeing
Walking not only does wonders for your physical health but will also help you feel better. From improved self-esteem and self-perception to self-confidence, memory and mood, the release of endorphins when you go for a walk helps you feel better and happier. You'll sleep more soundly as you'll be less stressed, anxious and fatigued. According to the NHS, being physically active can reduce your risk of depression and dementia by 30 percent.
Keep the weight off
You don't need to run for miles to lose weight. In fact, a study that looked at data from 1999 to 2012 found "A brisk 30-minute walk five days a week is more effective than any other form of exercise for keeping weight down." Whether or not this is strictly true is up for debate but what the research did show was brisk walking on a daily basis could burn up to 150 more calories per day, improve metabolism and build lean body muscle mass.
Strengthens bones and muscles
All forms of physical activity, including walking, can develop bone density. But walking is a good place to start as it's low-impact weight-bearing exercise. So you'll build stronger bones while avoiding developing conditions such as osteoporosis (a condition that weakens the bones and makes them fragile and more susceptible to fractures). Your balance will also improve because you are transferring weight from one foot to the other and therefore reduce your risk of falling over.
Get active and raise energy levels
The best cure for lethargy and a lack of energy is a brisk walk. Research has shown that this type of low-impact exercise can actually boost your energy levels. The reasons behind this aren't exactly clear but by being active, you feel more energetic. So make walking an activity in your daily life.
Cost-effective and Environmentally friendly
One of the benefits of walking is that it is completely free. This includes the local walk-schemes within your area. Walking can have an impact on making the environment friendlier by implementing a number of ways to include it into a daily routine. Some examples are taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking to the local shops instead of driving and getting off public transport one stop earlier while walking to home or to work. Reducing the travel using public transport results in the reduction of air pollution, and therefore a healthier and friendlier environment (NICE Guidelines).
Meet new people
Walking is a great way to meet new people and socialise within the environment. It can help build a social support system in your daily routine and you may feel more energetic and happier. From bonding with friends and family, putting one foot in front of the other is one of the simplest forms of exercise and very easy to get started. There are a number of walk schemes available to help you start your journey towards a healthier and happier lifestyle. To find out more about local health walk schemes in your area visit walkingforhealth.org.uk or gojauntly.com (available for £1.99 a month).