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In praise of the walking life

Allworth Co-CEO Scott Hanson shares how something as simple as walking can be a game changer.

 

It’s no exaggeration to state that walking is one of the healthiest things you can do.

In fact, if you take it upon yourself to investigate, you might just be shocked at how incredibly good it is for you.

How so?

Sure, there’s the value of the exercise, which is undeniable. But walking represents so much more than a workout. It’s also convenient, natural, free, holistically beneficial, functional – gets you from Point A to Point B – and emotionally cleansing and meditative.

More specifically, here are 8 ways that walking is the perfect hobby, along with some inspiring quotes to take along on your journey.

Walking Makes You Happy

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
 Friedrich Nietzsche

German intellectual giant Nietzsche obviously knew its value.

According to countless doctors and researchers, walking modifies your nervous system, pours endorphins into your brain, and decreases anger and hostility. (For even greater emotional benefit, walk among trees and greenery.1)

Walking Helps You Achieve a Healthy Weight

“Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.”
― Steven Wright

I guess that, technically, comedian Steven Wright is correct.

As an exercise, or mode of transportation, walking has all the benefits of running but few of the drawbacks (stress fractures and shin splints, for instance). Walking almost magically helps your body respond better to insulin, which can trim inches from around your waist. (Add hills to burn even more calories.)

One study proved that people who began walking just one mile a day lost an average of two percent of their body fat in the first month.2

Walking Lowers the Risk of Chronic Disease

 “The beauty is in the walking – we are betrayed only by destinations.”
― Gwyn Thomas

I have a friend who loves to hike, but who, at least during the hike, hates to discuss the destination.

He doesn't like thinking about the end.

Research conducted at both the University of Colorado and the University of Tennessee showed that semi-consistent walking (with or without a conversation about the destination) lowers the risk of stroke by an astounding 40 percent, and it lowers blood pressure by an average of 11 points.3

And it doesn’t even have to be daily (notice the “semi-consistent” reference above). Those improved stroke-risk and BP numbers were achieved by people who walked as little as twice a week.

Walking Can Prevent (Or Delay) Vericose Veins 

“Now shall I walk, or shall I ride?
'Ride,' Pleasure said;
'Walk,' Joy replied.”
― W.H. Davies (Welsh poet)

Oh, the subtle distinction between joy and pleasure.

I found this interesting: Our venous system is often referred to in medical circles as the “second heart.” That’s because the muscles, veins, and valves in our calves and feet serve to force blood back up toward our heart and lungs when we walk, becoming increasingly efficient the more we exercise.

Many people don’t realize that varicose veins, left untreated, can lead to blood clots. Conversely, walking helps keep blood from pooling in our southernmost hemispheres.   

Walking Improves Digestion

“I would walk along the quais when I had finished work or when I was trying to think something out. It was easier to think if I was walking and doing something or seeing people doing something that they understood.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Your digestion and, yes, along with it, your regularity, can be greatly improved by walking. While researching this article, I learned that the very first thing you are required to do in the aftermath of abdominal surgery is to get up and walk.

Why would that be?

The motion naturally messages your core muscles and aids in the process of elimination.

Finally, Walking Can Help You Sleep Better, Live Longer, and Relieve Pain

“Those of us who crave the expressive but can’t shake off the melancholy walk the street.”
― Vivian Gornick

The above heading is the Babe Ruth of the walking batting order. More simply, have you ever cured a blue mood by going for an evening walk? (And then afterward, pondered why you felt so much better than only an hour before?)

I have.

Unlike running, with its potential for repetitive injuries (and all those expensive shoes), walking is challenging enough that it substantially improves your cardiovascular health, while also being low impact enough that you’re not as likely to get hurt.

And, because walking – even just 10 minutes per day – increases blood flow to joints, it helps alleviate (or delays) arthritis.4

Also, study after study has shown that the people who live the longest, healthiest lives (those who live in what are known as the world’s “Blue Zones,” including Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California) – the stars of longevity – they don’t overwhelmingly run, belong to gyms, or lift weights. Instead, what the people in those specific regions have in common is that they walk almost every day.5 In fact, a study of 140,000 people over 70 years of age found that people who walked six hours each week (and even as little as two) had substantially lower risks for cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer, than those folks who were sedentary.

Lastly, studies show that walkers sleep better (both longer and deeper) than non-walkers (which itself provides a big boost to overall health).

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
― John Muir

John Muir, the “Father of the National Parks,” agrees: Walk to stay mentally and physically healthy, and to put yourself in the best position to enjoy a long retirement.  

 

 

 1, 2, 3, 4 https://www.prevention.com/fitness/a20485587/benefits-from-walking-every-day/

5 https://www.bluezones.com/2018/07/research-says-walking-this-much-per-week-extends-your-life/#:~:text=The%20study%20from%20the%20American,per%20week%20could%20begin%20to