Walking is the most ordinary thing a human can do. Unless we have a physical impairment, we take this activity completely for granted. A French study suggests we should start paying more attention to the benefits of walking, especially as we age.
The Benefits of Walking
The impact of the simple act of walking in adults over 65 had a remarkable effect: over the course of the 12-year study, regular walking of just 15 minutes a day reduced the rate of mortality by 22%. The rate was even higher with longer and more frequent activity levels.
As the lead researcher stated: “Age is not an excuse to do no exercise. It is well established that regular physical activity has a better overall effect on health than any medical treatment. But less than half of older adults achieve the recommended minimum of 150 minutes moderate intensity or 75 minutes vigorous intensity exercise each week.”
This finding should come as no surprise.
Because it is so basic to us, the act of walking has been extensively studied for its effects on various aspects of the human condition. Some people don’t see walking as an aerobic exercise and so ignore its benefits. The definition of “aerobic” exercise is that which stimulates heart and respiratory rates to pump additional oxygen to muscles. Even a slow stroll does that. The faster you walk, the more aerobic the activity.
Increased cardiovascular, respiratory, and circulatory operations mean nutrients go where they must to support the exercise. Energy is used rather than stored and your organs, muscles, and bones are strengthened. Our bodies are meant for movement.
Without doubt, a sedentary lifestyle that omits adequate exercise leads to illness. Routinely low levels of physical activity have given rise to what is called “sedentary death syndrome”. This is a very real condition that has been deemed “a major public health burden due to its causing multiple chronic diseases and millions of premature deaths each year.”
If you don’t use it, you lose it; this goes for everything from muscle strength to cognition.
For All Walks of Life
A 2016 study found that increasing the amount of walking for obese children to 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week increased their lung capacity in just 6 weeks. Additionally, interval training isn’t only for high-impact aerobic exercise. Employing fast walking interspersed with a slow walk improves your fitness level more effectively than walking at a continual pace.
Walking outdoors has a particularly supportive effect on mental health. Natural surroundings (away from electronics and other distractions) improve mood, decrease stress, and lower feelings of depression.
Sunshine nourishes us with essential vitamin D, the deficiency of which is becoming almost epidemic in the industrial world. Walking indoors is almost as good; a study at Stanford University found that walking on a treadmill facing a blank wall resulted in almost as many creative responses as being outside. Whether in or out, walking significantly beat sitting in measures of mental activity.