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TOP SCIENCE-BASED HEALTH BENEFITS OF REGULAR WALKING AND EXERCISE

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Health Benefits of Regular Walking

If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that time outside is essential. Whether you’re going outside to train for a 10k run or just for a walk to the store, the fresh air and exercise that comes with a stroll outside has a huge effect on our bodies. But why does it impact us so much? In this article, we’ll cover the major science-based health benefits of regular walking and exercise.

Why? Because life is so much better when you’re healthy.

With that being said, we’ll be looking at:

  • The physical health benefits of exercise outdoors
  • The mental health benefits of exercise outdoors
  • The ways you can make a walk or run more exciting

From mood changes to weight loss and improved wellbeing, exercise and nature combine into potent medicine. So, if you’re ready to learn about some of the best science-based health benefits of regular walking and exercise, let’s dive right in to them:

Leading Benefits of Regular Walking and Exercise

1. Lower Risks of Heart Disease, Hypertension, & Strokes

One of the major benefits of regular walking and exercise is that it can reduce the risk of heart disease, increased blood pressure, and strokes.[1]

With increased physical activity, your heart will be working harder and learning to be more efficient, thereby improving functionality. It’s like when you lift weights – with repetition, your muscles (which your heart is) get used to the new challenge and can handle more.

2. Create Stronger Bones and Better Balance

Regular walking and exercise can result in stronger bones and your ability to balance.[2] 

Running or walking outside can be more high impact on your bones than running on a treadmill, but it will encourage a higher bone mineral density.

On the other hand, walking/exercising outside will actually put less stress on your knees, as treadmills are infamous for.

Related: Best Ways to Get Fit for Life

3. Increase Blood Circulation and Flow

It can increase your blood circulation and improve flow.[3] Raising your heart rate slightly with aerobic exercises like a jog or brisk walk, pumps your blood around your body faster and helps flush your system.

Repeating this kind of exercise little and often can help improve overall flow and support your heart health.

On top of all the physical changes you’ll see from increased walks and exercise outdoors, there are several mental health and wellbeing benefits you’ll experience too. And with World Mental Health Day coming up on the 10th October, it doesn’t hurt to take some time and see if there’s a way you can improve yours…

4. Reduce Symptoms of Depression

Walking outside can help reduce the symptoms of depression. 

Research shows that people who are regularly physically active are less likely to be depressed.[4] It’s all to do with how exercise influences our brain function and chemical centers. 

Walking and raising your heart rate can encourage our brains to release certain neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine as well as endorphins. These are all feel-good natural chemicals that help your body regulate moods, relieve stress and manage pain.

What’s more, walking outside in nature can reduce the risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a common form of depression. It’s more usual in the cooler months where there are fewer hours of sunlight and fewer indicators for our bodies to produce serotonin. This lack of serotonin impacts our natural circadian rhythms and increases feelings of lethargy and drowsiness.

Walking or exercising outside during the day in whatever sunshine there is, is a great way to tell your body that it’s daytime and to increase the production of serotonin. Light exposure and increased neurotransmitter production can also help regulate your sleep pattern, as well as boost your mood and help with anxiety.

If you think you are depressed or dealing with SAD, please speak to a doctor to gain a confirmed diagnosis before starting any serious treatment.

5. Increase Your Energy Levels

You might think that increase activity will wear you out, but getting out and about is an energy booster. 

For starters, if your circadian rhythm is off, you’ll likely feel groggy and tired a lot, so that serotonin boost and the improved sleep might result in more energy during the day.

Next, the blood pumping and fresh air are naturally invigorating and can blow away all those pesky cobwebs and shut-in feelings. 

6. Help You Maintain a Routine

When you’re stuck inside, the days can either fly or drag by, making it hard to keep track of the date. But a walk outside at the same time every day is a great way to kick start your routine and get back into some semblance of a schedule.

Just think, to go for a walk, you need to get up and washed, then have some breakfast and get dressed, then you’re ready to go. It is a short process but a nice easy routine for someone who is struggling.

Related: Link Between Fitness & Success

7. Improve Your Mindfulness.

Getting outside to take a walk and just observing the world around you is an excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness. 

Mindfulness is the idea of being completely present in the current moment – no worrying about other things, no stressing, just focusing on the moment at hand. 

So, getting outside and away from any potential problems can be a major boost for your wellbeing.

8. Build Self-esteem, Confidence and Encourages Socialization

If you’re struggling mentally, then small everyday things can seem like a struggle, but if you can manage to go for a daily walk or do a little bit of exercise, you may feel a bit better about yourself.

Similarly, if you finally manage to climb the tallest hill in your area on your walk, that’s another confidence booster. Furthermore, if you notice the pounds dropping off as you increase your walking routine, that is going to be a definite boost to your self-esteem too.

It’s the little wins that count and add up to you feeling better overall.

It’s also a great opportunity to be social by inviting your friends or family to join you or just waving at that person you see on your walk every day. We humans are social creatures, and even though our levels may vary, a bit of social interaction is beneficial and has been said to improve mental health.[5]

Bonus: Some Ways You Can Make A Walk Or Run More Exciting

The key thing about all this is to make walking or running outside a habit, not a chore. You should want to go outside for the fresh air and the world around you, so it’s good to mix it up and try new things to prolong your enjoyment. 

You could try:

  • A new route that explores new areas.
  • Seeing how many plants types you can find.
  • Drive out somewhere completely new and explore.
  • Birdwatching is a good mindful outside activity.
  • Stopping at a local coffee shop for a drink.
  • Meeting a friend for a mid-walk picnic or chat.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, the major benefits or regular walking and exercise, and why you should consider doing much of these activities outdoors.

With that being said, remember, walking or exercising is good anytime, but doing it outside in nature with all the world to watch and distract you is just a bit better, isn’t it? So why not give it a try and see how your mental health and wellbeing improves?

Till next time,

STRIVE

PS – If you enjoyed this article on the health benefits of walking daily, then you’ll certainly love these inspiring quotes, to remind you that real wealth is health. You can give them a read here: Health is Wealth.

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