- Boosts Metabolism: Walking after meals does a better job of helping food to move through the stomach than espresso or alcoholic digestifs according to a 2008 study. According to a 2009 study, an after-meal walk can also be very effective at lowering the glycemic impact of a meal—meaning that the activity seems to help stabilize postprandial blood sugar levels. It only takes 15-20 minutes of walking after meals to experience these metabolism-boosting effects.
- Prevents Osteoporosis: As a chiropractor, I am particularly concerned with bone health. While nutrition is incredibly important for maintaining healthy bones, weight-bearing movement is one of the only ways to capitalize on Wolff’s law—the theory that increasing load on a bone causes the bone to become stronger over time. Walking is one of the simplest forms of weight-bearing exercise, and as little as 30 minutes daily will help keep your bones strong and healthy. For an added health bonus, try an outdoor walk in the middle of the day which will help your body make its daily dose of vitamin D, a nutrient that helps bones, mood, and immune function. (Please note that in order to experience this benefit, you’ll have to go sans SPF, which may mean cutting your walk short, especially if you have very fair skin. Here’s more info from the Vitamin D Council.)
- Enhances Creativity: Have you ever had a problem that you just could not figure out? You sat there frustrated for 2 hours trying to come up with a solution, and so you finally decided to pop outside to get some fresh air. Then after walking around for a few minutes, your eureka moment finally came to you! You’re not the only person who has experienced this. A 2014 study demonstrated this effect by placing 176 research participants under various conditions including walking indoors on a treadmill, sitting indoors, walking outdoors, or sitting outdoors. Creativity output significantly increased while walking—whether it was indoors on a treadmill looking at a blank wall or outdoors—rather than sitting. As little as 5 minutes of walking can help get your creative juices flowing.
- Social Connection: Do you remember a time when you used to go over to your best friend’s house and ask if he or she could come outside and play? Your social interactions revolved around kickball games and water balloon fights rather than cell phones and mealtimes (or using cell phones while you’re all out together having a meal…ahem, I have been guilty of that a time or two, myself!). A great way to reconnect with friends and family is to make physical activity a part of your socializing. Walking is an easy one to introduce to your social group because you can still chat while strolling along, but I am a huge proponent of any kind of activity-oriented socializing.
- Weight Loss and Maintenance: Of course, I could not leave this one out. Movement in general seems to help with weight loss and weight maintenance in conjunction with proper diet, stress reduction, and proper sleep. Try a daily vigorous walk for 30 minutes or a more moderate speed for 45-60 minutes. Aiming for 3-5 miles daily will be your best bet for helping you with your weight loss goals. If you have a smartphone, you can track your mileage with a free app like MapMyRun or MapMyWalk.
As with any new exercise program, if you are currently under the care of a doctor or other health care provider, check with him or her before starting any new exercise program. If you aren’t scheduled for an appointment any time soon, most health care providers will be able to clear you with an email or a phone call. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the information in this article or if you would like to know whether walking is right for you.