Walking 30 minutes a day might be the secret to a ripple effect of health
Hippocrates said that, “walking is man’s best medicine.” Forget the gym. What if there were just one single action you could take that you could do anywhere, anytime, that would transform your health? Studies show that walking 30 minutes a day may be the lone catalyst we need to create a ripple effect of improved health and happiness.
It seems hard to believe that just putting one foot in front of another could have such a huge impact on our overall wellness. But when you take a step-by-step look at the effects a brisk 30 minute walk has on our bodies, it’s easy to see how powerful it can be.
Here’s what happens to your body when you go for a walk
First, your energy picks up
Feeling too tired to walk? Don’t worry. Your first few steps trigger your body to release energy-producing chemicals in your cells that will help you power through your walk. Your heart rate starts to pick up as you pick up the pace. To help you move more easily, your joints naturally release a lubricating fluid that eases any stiffness you felt before you started walking.
If you are walking outside, studies show that just the smell of fresh air can quell stress and increase happiness within seconds. Additionally, research shows that spending time in fresh air increases energy in 90 percent of people.
Next, endorphins start lifting your mood
Now that you’re a bit more energized, a quicker pace results in an increase in the number of calories your body is burning per minute. Sitting, on average, we burn about 1 calorie per minute. Walking slowly burns about 5 calories per minute, and a brisk walk burns 7.
As blood and oxygen flow to working muscles, your body temperature rises. Your hormones and feel-good chemicals also start flowing. Epinephrine releases fuel to your muscles, and endorphins start to relax your body by reducing stress hormones.
Finally, a meditative state clears your mind
After several minutes, studies show walking can put the brain into a meditative state. Especially if you are walking through a green space, the repetitive motion of walking combined with increased oxygen intake quiets the mind, increases awareness and reduces stress.
Additionally, taking a walk outside can improve memory and attention span by up to 20 percent.
9 Long-Term Benefits of Walking 30 Minutes a Day
In addition to the immediate effects walking has on our health, over time, the benefits are even more impactful:
One study showed that cancer patients who suffer from severe fatigue showed a 27 percent decrease in fatigue levels after three months of walking, in addition to decreased pain.
Research shows that walking regularly modifies your nervous system so much that a regular walking regimen will help you experience a decrease in irritability overall. Walking outdoors is even more powerful, as the natural sunlight wards off Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD).
In addition to helping you burn more calories. walking regularly improves your body’s response to insulin. It also increases the speed of your metabolism by building muscle, which burns fat.
Reduced risk of chronic disease
Walking regularly lowers your risk of a slew of diseases and chronic health issues, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke and more.
If you suffer from stomach aches, either from stress and anxiety or digestive issues, a 30-minute walk a day can help. Studies show that taking a walk after meals stimulates your digestive track.
Walking promotes healthy blood flow from our heart to our limbs, brain and entire body. Not only does that help to prevent blood clots and varicose veins, but it helps us think clearer.
Some people shy away from walking because they feel their joints are too stiff to manage a long walk. To diminish the progression of osteoarthritis, people with stiff joints and muscles should especially try walking, as the synovial fluid our bodies release when we walk brings fluid and relief to joints.
How to make the most of your walk
In 2012, after reading that there are more people in the U.S. who take antidepressants than who go to the movies, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore gave himself a 30-minute walking challenge.
Since, thousands have joined him on his “Walk with Mike” journey. Five years later, Moore still walks for 30 minutes every single day. Sometimes twice. He says that although he doesn’t care about how much weight he has lost, walking has changed his thinking and helped him finally see his feet. “You’ll only eat when you’re truly hungry. Without knowing it, you’ll start to eat like the French. You’ll feel better,” Moore says.
Ready to take a 30-minute walking challenge? It only takes one walk to get started. If you’re having trouble remembering to walk every day, experts say that it takes 21 days for a new habit to stick.
- Schedule your walks on your calendar so you don’t forget to make time for them.
- Practice visual meditation or breathing techniques while you are walking for added benefits.
- Make sure your sneakers or shoes fit properly so you don’t induce any injuries.
- Walk with a friend. Fresh air + the benefits of walking + time with a great friend? Yes, please! Walking with a friend will offer social benefits as well.
Once that tension release, combined with mental clarity and an overall feeling of enhanced wellness kicks in, you will be hooked!
Ready to start walking 30 minutes a day?
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