When the father of Western medicine, the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, says 'Walking is man's best medicine', who are we to disagree? Given that he said this two millennia ago, it is especially relevant today. Technology in modern industrial society has benefited society in a large number of ways, granted, but has also affected our physical health by reducing the effort we need to put into most of our daily activities.
Walking is known to be the most inexpensive and accessible form of physical activity available to us. The benefits of a simple movement like simply putting one feet in front of another can no longer be ignored, or disregarded for its simplicity.
A typical day for an adult in modern society consists of sitting for most of the time. Whether it is sitting in a car on the way to work and back, sitting in a chair for the majority of the work day, sitting in a movie theatre or restaurant – there seems to be no place for light physical activity in our day to day lives. Compare this lifestyle to the lifestyle of the early Paleolithic man who spent all his time on his feet, foraging for food and fresh land – it would not be inaccurate to say that we present a poor picture in comparison. How do we remedy this?
Walking an hour a day reaps unbelievable benefits.
Benefits of Walking for an Hour Every Day –
Walking an Hour a day is Beneficial in Reducing Body Fat :
While walking isn't the optimal form of exercise available to us, it definitely is a great way to keep your body fat in check. A brisk hour walk a day (brisk enough for heavy breathing and a light sweat) works out a good 300 calories out of you, which is definitely beneficial towards weight loss. A research team from the University of Quebec, in Montreal, Canada, tracked the walking habits of 57 women between the ages of 50 and 70. These women wore pedometers for a week to calculate how many steps they took in a day. The women who walked the most weighed less and had a smaller percentage of body fat. They had an average body mass index of 25 (considered a normal weight). The other women had BMI numbers in the overweight range. Hence, it proves that walking for an hour – or even more – every day reduces body fat slowly, yet significantly.
Stress Reducing Benefits of Walking an Hour a Day :
Cortisol is an important hormone which is secreted by the adrenal glands, and which helps in regulation of blood pressure and insulin release for blood sugar maintenance. However, in our modern high pressure environment, our body's stress response is perpetually activated, which releases higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream, which, in turn, impairs cognitive performance, suppresses thyroid function, decreases bone density and increases your blood pressure. However, there is a way around our body's natural function. An hour long walk a day regulates the cortisol levels in our body, hence reducing stress. According to Dr. Aaron Michelfelder, of the Stritch School of Medicine, an optimal way to decompress after a stressful day is to take a long walk, preferably in nature. He further attests that when we walk in nature, our health improves. "Our stress hormones rise all day long in our bloodstream and taking even a few moments while walking to reconnect with our inner thoughts and to check in with our body will benefit in lowering those damaging stress hormones. It also helps in making us happy when we walk in a forest or park, our levels of white blood cells increase and it also lowers our pulse rate, blood pressure and level of cortisol." Hence, it is proved that walking for an hour a day (in nature, if that's an option) scientifically benefits in reducing stress.
60 Minutes of Walking a Day Benefits the Immune Function :
A study conducted by the Department of Health, Leisure & Exercise Science by the Appalachian State University tested fifteen healthy women who were accustomed to regular walking. After making the women do some light exercise in their centre, and collecting saliva and blood samples pre & post exercise (which consisted of brisk walking) showed that walking increased oxygen consumption and heart rate. The pattern of increase in blood counts for natural killer cells differed significantly from sedentary people. Walking caused modest changes in immune parameters, most notably for neutrophil and natural killer blood cell counts.
Another study conducted by the Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences, in the Doctoral Program of Sports Medicine, in Tsukuba University, Japan, has also proved that walking approximately 7000 steps per day can be regarded as a moderate daily physical activity for elderly people and benefits in improving mucosal (relating to musous membranes) immune function.
Slashes Risk of Chronic Disease :
Studies conducted by the Department of Exercise Science of the GWU School of Public Health & Health Services prove that walking lowers your blood sugar levels, and subsequently your overall risk for diabetes. Researchers at the University of Boulder, Colorado & the University of Tennessee found that regular walking lowered blood pressure by as much as 11 points, and reduces the risk of a stroke by 20% to 40%, case pertaining. Other studies have found that those who walked enough to meet physical activity guidelines (30 or more minutes of moderate activity 5 out of 7 days in a week) had a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with sedentary people. Besides, brisk and regular walkers are less likely to experience cognitive impairment problems.
What else does one need to tie up their sneakers and head out for an hour long walk a day? With benefits such as lowered blood levels, decrease in visible varicose veins, increase in cognitive function, boost of creativity, boost of immune function and providing you a meditative, cost-free way to get out of your regular schedule – no one should be sedentary any more. Prioritize a walk to be either the first thing you do every day or the last, and watch how your body and mind transform.