This is no new headline: walking is good for our health! Walking helps us maintain a healthy weight, strengthens our bones and muscles, and improves our cardiovascular health. Did you know walking offers more unexpected benefits than what meets the surface? Here are five more reasons to strap on those sneakers and put one foot in front of the other.
1. Boosts creativity
Did you know that walking can boost your creativity? Stanford researchers tested this theory and found that, yes, walking does indeed boost creative inspiration. They examined the creativity levels of people while they walked and while they sat. A person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking.
It would be easy to understand how a walk through the woods could inspire creative ideas. However, being surrounded by nature isn’t necessary if you’re looking to get those creative juices flowing. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology concluded that “the act of walking itself, and not the environment, leads to increased creativity.”
If you’re struggling to come up with new ideas or solutions to a problem, take a walk! Even a short stroll around the block, or a mile or two on a treadmill, can do wonders for your creative thinking.
2. Improves mood
Endless studies suggest how physical activity benefits our psychological health. Exercise changes the brain’s chemicals that affect mood. Movement increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, triggering the release of endorphins and serotonin, otherwise known as the “feel-good” hormones.
For those who are less than active, the idea of starting a new exercise routine can understandably feel overwhelming. However, UConn researchers have good news for folks who are normally sedentary—no structured exercise program is needed. Simply going for a leisurely walk can improve mood and boost well-being—all without a gym membership.
But exactly how long must you walk to lift your spirits? According to a study by psychologists at Iowa State University, walking for just 12 minutes—even without traditional happiness factors like sunshine, nature, social contact, and uptempo music—is a powerful mood lifter. Throw on your sneakers and take a quick 12-minute walk to boost your mood.
3. Reduces risk of chronic disease
Walking is one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of chronic disease. Studies have shown that regular walking can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease, major depressive disorder and some forms of cancer. The best part? You don’t have to walk for hours on end to reap these benefits. A recent study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center revealed that walking 8,200 steps a day was the threshold at which a person begins to significantly lower their risk of developing various chronic diseases.
4. Improves sleep
If you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, try incorporating walking into your daily routine. Regular exercise, in any form, can help relieve insomnia. This includes walking. For those without sleep issues, research has shown that walking can improve sleep quality. And nighttime walks can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Just be sure to avoid walking too close to bedtime, as the stimulating effects of exercise can make it harder to fall asleep.
5. Strengthens relationships
Walking with others is a great way to strengthen relationships. Whether it’s a walk with a friend, family member, or pet, walking together can improve communication and deepen your connection with each other. It’s one of the few times we can be together without interruption. Additionally, walking can be a fun and low-pressure way to socialize and enjoy each other’s company.
If you find walking with your sweetheart less of a workout, you’re onto something. A Purdue study found that romantic couples tend to gravitate toward the pace of the slower walker when they walk together. That may be a trade-off you’re willing to make.
Walking is a simple yet effective way to improve overall health and well-being. The next time you have a few spare minutes, take a walk and enjoy all its benefits, including the unexpected ones.
Walk with Welia
Looking for a great place to walk? Check out the walking track at the Welia Center. It’s open daily from 5am to 10pm, so you can get your stroll on–morning, noon, or night. Follow Welia Center on Facebook to watch for walking contests, walking groups, and more!
Looking for more walking inspiration? Check out Walking Minnesota on YouTube.