Walking: The Many Benefits

by Joyce Shulman

There’s something that happens when you take a walk. Your burdens feel lighter. Your mind becomes clearer. Your breath grows deeper, and your body just feels better. At the same time, your heart grows stronger, your stress lessens, your brain grows bigger and your life gets longer. With the power of an intentional walking practice, allows you to discover a transformation of your mind, mood and body. It’s why we say walking is magic. 

Photo courtesy of 99 Walks

According to medical science, the list of health and wellness benefits—physically, mentally and emotionally—are plentiful. Here are six of my favorites:

  1. Walking is good for your heart. People who maintain at least a moderate level of fitness—about 30 minutes, five days a week—are more likely to ward off coronary heart disease, even if you have a family history, or suffer from high blood pressure or obesity. Plus, here are five more reasons walking is good for your heart health.
  2. Walking reduces your blood pressure. Studies have shown that regular and consistent exercise, like walking, reduces high blood pressure and helps you sustain the benefits over time. It’s even found that shorter bursts of activity for women throughout the day—like a 3-10-minute walk multiple times a day—can help you maintain lower blood pressure.
  3. Walking helps curb anxiety. Like depression, anxiety can pop up out of the blue, but research shows that walking can calm those frayed nerves and elevated heart rate. As little as 10 minutes breathing in fresh air and walking through the worry does wonders for putting anxiety at bay. Learn more about how here.
  4. Walking combats loneliness and creates connection. Whether shoulder-to-shoulder or via phone, taking a walk with a loved one is truly magical. Not only is it meditative, but the increased oxygen and blood flow helps you communicate more clearly and listen more carefully. As I mentioned in this Tedx Talk, women who regularly walk with their friends are 2.5 times less likely to be lonely. I also believe that the best way to experience a new destination and connect with new people is on foot. Here’s an article about African Walking Safaris and another on a walking vacation along the Camino in Spain.
  5. Walking helps you sleep better. A good night’s sleep may just be the key to help you feel more rejuvenated, focused, and energized to crush your goals. Research shows that women who walked regularly reported significantly better sleep than those who took fewer steps. And those study participants who were already getting the recommended hours of sleep? Well, they found their quality of sleep improved on days they walked.
  6. Overall, walking just seems to make us happier.  Walking reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases the trifecta of happy hormones: endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. A walk is a powerful, all-natural mood booster, leaving you feeling, well, just downright happier! 

Bottom line? No matter your age, location or fitness level, everyone can realize the benefits of a regular walking practice. All it takes is lacing up a comfortable pair of shoes and walking out your door to begin experiencing the magical benefits of walking. 

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About the author: Joyce Shulman is the co-founder and CEO of 99 Walks & Jetti Fitness, author of Why Walk and Walk Your Way to Better and presented of the TEDx, How More Walking Leads to Less Loneliness. Based in the US, 99 Walks shares the transformative power of an intentional walking practice with virtual classes, coaching, monthly challenges and walking retreats and adventures. Joyce tells us she’s on a mission to get a million women walking.

Two Travel to Wellness contributors write about their own walking vacations: Walking Tour of England and Walking Ruta Vicentina, Costa Vicentina, Portugal.