Many people have walked much more since the start of lockdown. In fact, a recent report from Transport for London said that 57% of respondents walk more than they did previously. And that’s something very positive to come out of the pandemic.
Walking is great for overall wellness. It boosts your metabolism, improves physical health and spending time outdoors is also good for mindfulness and mental health.
This National Parks Fortnight Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares why getting outside and walking is so beneficial for our health.
It burns calories
With so many of us finding life more sedentary than previously, managing weight effectively has also been more difficult. Whilst there are a number of factors associated with trying to lose weight, there is also an equation of energy input and energy output. In short, if you take in more calories than you expend, over a period of time, weight gain is more likely.
Brisk walking, especially when you find yourself slightly out of breath, can burn around 80 calories a mile, for an averaged sized person. And it doesn’t actually take that long to walk three of four miles; you can probably burn off your breakfast or lunch! Regular exercise also helps uprate the metabolism generally, so your body will be more efficient. Plus, walking after a meal also helps the insulin response, therefore less of the meal is going to be stored as fat.
It’s great for mental wellbeing
When the going gets tough, how often do we say, ‘I need to get out for a while’? We all know that taking in some fresh air can really clear the head and help relieve stress. There is also much research to suggest that deep breathing helps relax the body generally, pushing it towards the parasympathetic nervous system response. This is the opposite to the body being in ‘fight or flight’ which is the normal stress reaction. This can cause anxiety, mood swings, digestive issues and poor sleep, if happening too often.
Use the time you go out walking (try for around 30 minutes a day) to totally switch off. Avoid looking at your phone, unless to listen to a podcast or some music, and be in the moment. Make a point of taking in the surroundings or noting what’s going on; it will help you switch off from any current stressful events.
Additionally, walking is great for boosting blood flow around the body, and this includes to the brain. Good blood flow helps supply the brain with oxygen and nutrients for it to function correctly. Plus, it delivers glucose, the brain’s main fuel. Interestingly, the brain utilises around 30% of all glucose produced by the body, meaning it requires lots of energy. You’ll be amazed at how much sharper your brain works when given sufficient oxygen and fuel.
It’s great for the joints
Just like your brain, your joints, muscles and bones also need good circulation. Walking can help lessen stiffness in the joints and often relieve pain too. Plus, good blood flow helps bring nutrients to the joints, muscles and bones which will make them stronger and reduce any inflammation and pain.
People suffering from persistent knee pain for example, often think that walking and exercise won’t help but the reverse is true; everything will just stiffen up without good movement, making pain worse. Importantly, walking is categorised as weight-bearing exercise so helps keep bones strong and prevents osteoporosis.
Helpful walking tips
- Always wear good footwear; trainers or walking boots are ideal
- If going for a longer distance, take some water with you and a light snack if needed
- Take your phone so you can always make contact in emergencies
- Build up your distance slowly if you’ve not exercised for a while to avoid injury
- Enjoy your surroundings – take time to appreciate the wonders of nature
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