Walking: 12 reasons why it’s so good for you

Why joining us National Walking Month is one small step towards improving your health and happiness.

Why walking is so good for you

It’s easy, free and available to most of us. You don’t need special or new clothes and you don’t need to learn a new skill. It also single-handedly fights an almost endless list of health conditions such as dementia, cancer or depression.

“Walking,” said the ‘Father of Medicine’ Hippocrates, “is a man’s best medicine”, (and we’ll presume that a modern day Hippocrates would kindly extend his conclusion to all of humankind). Over 2,000 years later, a growing body of scientific evidence is proving him right.

From doctors in Shetland prescribing nature to their patients to the Japanese concept of wellbeing through ‘forest bathing’, we now have a better understanding of why walking and nature is good for us.

Research suggests that a daily brisk 20 minute could cut our risk of premature death by almost a third. Yet that’s not all the benefits of regular walking.

Woman walking around Airthrey Loch at Stirling University, Wallace Monument in background

1. It increases the chances of recovering from cancer

Two recent studies in America suggested that going for a walk can help battle cancer. The studies found that people diagnosed with breast and bowel cancer were half as likely to die if they walked for 180 minutes a week.

2. Walking fights dementia

Researchers are discovering that three hours of brisk strolling a week can improve cognitive brain function in people who suffered from dementia.

The research also suggests that regular walks can reduce the chances of someone developing vascular cognitive impairment in the first place.

3. Your heart loves a good walk

Since 1970, study after study has shown that regular walking reduces the likelihood of hearts attacks, heart disease, angioplasty and strokes. This is because walking is a cardiovascular exercise that gets the blood pumping without straining the system.

According to the Stroke Association, a daily 30-minute stroll keeps high blood pressure in check and reduces the risk of suffering a stroke by up to 27 percent.

Evidence also suggests that sustained walking has better outcomes than sustained running.

4. It boosts your mood

Strolling round our beautiful campus really is a tonic for wellbeing and happiness. This is supported by a report from mental health charity Mind concluding that walks in parks or the countryside reduced feelings of depression in 71% of participants and boosted self-esteem in 90% of them.

Psychology experiments at Iowa State University revealed that just the simple act of walking is a powerful tool for lifting moods. Students who went for a walk sustained happiness levels even if they knew they had a difficult task after their walk, such as writing an essay.

Going for a walk can also be a social activity when done in a group or with friends, so it’s a good way of tackling isolation or loneliness.

5. It builds muscle strength

Walking uses more than 200 muscles and is good for strengthening thighs, calves and glutes. Because walking is usually low intensity, it causes less strain and injuries as well.

6. It’s the best exercise for weight loss

People are more likely to have a lower weight if they regularly engage in fast walking compared to doing another vigorous activity like going to the gym according to research carried out at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The results are particularly pronounced in women, people over 50, and those on low incomes.

7. It’s great for exploring your local area

Walking helps you find out more and connect with your local area. You can find all all kinds of green spaces, gems and hidden places in and around the campus.

Hermitage Woods, Stirling
Enjoy a stroll through Hermitage Woodland

8. It fights stress

Going for a stroll is known for its relaxing qualities but it’s also more likely to relieve stress than cause it. Unlike higher impact exercise like running, walking raises your heart-rate without triggering the production of the stress hormone cortisol.

A Princeton University research study found that exercise such as walking reorganises brain neurons, helping people relieve stress and anxiety.

9. It reduces your risk of developing type-2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is more likely to affect overweight or obese adults. Therefore you can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes with regular exercise and a healthy diet.

10. Walking can help strengthen your bones

Walking can help to strengthen bones, which prevents the onset of osteoporosis, that makes bones brittle and more likely to break.

11. It strengthens your concentration

A Harvard Medical School research study revealed that walking and other forms of regular exercise releases brain chemicals that help you concentrate.

12. A walk boosts creativity

Need a fresh idea? Need to work out a problem? The simple solution is to take a walk and rejuvenate your mind as well as your body. A Stanford University research study found that people boosted their creative inspiration by an average of 60 percent, as a result of walking.

Theme by the University of Stirling