Walking is Good for You: The Benefits to the Body and Mind
Walking is one of the most natural actions for a person, so much so that we learn to do it from an early age. When we walk, we do not have to think about how to move our feet and how to balance our weight, we simply perform an easy and spontaneous motion. However, walking is a complex activity from the physical point of view, and involves our whole body: shoulders, arms, back and legs, not to mention breathing and circulation.
It is precisely the ability to keep the body active and the spontaneity of the motion that makes walking one of the healthiest activities that a person can do. It is not a coincidence that Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician and father of modern medicine, claimed that "walking is the best medicine". But the benefits of walking are not limited only to the body, as we will see in this article. Walking is also good for the mind and, therefore, represents a complete and ideal activity to stay fit and improve your health.
The benefits of walking: why walking is good for you
The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly discussed the issue of physical activity1 and in particular has emphasized how this brings about significant health benefits which can counteract the many problems that arise from a sedentary lifestyle.
Before listing the benefits of walking, however, it is important to define we mean when we talk about physical activity and how it differs from physical exercise. The WHO defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure, such as walking. Physical exercise, on the other hand, is a sequence of repetitive movements that are structured, planned, and performed regularly to improve physical fitness.
Also, according to the WHO, half an hour of walking a day is sufficient to enjoy important health benefits.
Walking makes you slim: the easiest way to burn calories
Walking is an activity that allows you to burn calories and, if associated with a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition, can even allow you to lose weight and tone muscles in your legs. According to research from the London School of Economics2, walking at a brisk pace for at least half an hour a day can help address or prevent obesity.
Walking improves posture and balance: a remedy for those who sit for many hours
Often, when you work or study, you spend many hours sitting and this can cause spinal problems, muscle problems and leg weakness. Walking, on the other hand, involves the movement of muscles and bones, which must work in synergy to distribute body weight and keep us in balance. This activity, therefore, brings our body to maintain correct posture and trains the skeleton and muscles to stay in balance without any kind of support.
Walking is good for the bones: a way to prevent osteoporosis
The skeleton responds to physical activity and by becoming stronger. This helps with bone mineralization, which is the removal of old bone tissue and replacement with younger tissue. Conversely, a too sedentary lifestyle and poor diet increase the chance of suffering from osteoporosis and causes bones to weaken, making them more prone to fractures.
Walking improves circulation and heart activity: a way to prevent cardiovascular diseases such as diabetes
Walking at a brisk pace raises your heart rate, allowing your heart to stay exercised without overexerting itself. A Harvard Medical School report also found that walking for two and a half hours a week reduces the risk of developing heart problems by 30%3.
It is also widely accepted that walking helps fight diabetes, one of the most common diseases in the world4. The American Diabetes Association has even developed a daily walking-based program to help people with diabetes gradually approach physical activity5.
Walking prevents breast cancer: a little effort that can make a difference
In a major study conducted by the American Cancer Society, published in "Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention," it was found that people who regularly engage in physical activity can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by up to 25% compared to those who do not engage in physical activity6.
Walking reduces anxiety and stress: a panacea for mental health
When you walk and do physical activity, your body produces endorphins, also known as "happy hormones." For this reason, a walk often helps you feel better, clears your mind, and reduces anxiety and stress.
Walking in the mountains: the benefits of hiking for the body
Work shifts and commitments don’t always allow you to carve out half an hour a day to take a walk. The morning before going to work, on your lunch break, or late afternoon are ideal times to take time to walk, but not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do so.
Often, you also need a lot of perseverance and willpower to go for walk. Without the right stimulus we tend to choose the relaxation and comfort of our homes instead of preferring to go on a healthy walk.
But don't worry, you can always make up for it over the weekend!
Instead of taking short walks during the week, you can take a hike on the weekend, which can also be an opportunity to spend time with family or friends. And what better place for a Sunday hike than the mountains?
In addition to the benefits already mentioned, walking in the mountains can have numerous other advantages.
Walking in the mountains makes you lose weight: you burn even more calories
Walking uphill is much more tiring than walking on flat land and for this reason, our body burns more calories in the mountains. If you consider that you often carry a backpack, you can imagine how easy it is to lose weight with a hike.
Walking allows you to train different muscles: the advantage of ascents and descents
The differences in height typical of a mountain environment allow your legs to move in ways that aren’t typical of everyday life, namely ascending and descending. This allows you to train muscles that are normally under-stimulated, such as the quadriceps, glutes and tibialis, and ensures that they remain active and toned. Walking uphill or downhill also helps to stimulate movement in your ankles and knees, training stability.
If you use trekking poles you can also tone muscles in your arms.
Walking in the mountains to breathe clean air
One of the most important aspects of the mountains is the healthiness of the air, which is less polluted and cleaner than the air you breathe in cities and towns. Walking in the mountains and breathing in the pure air of this environment allows you to feel good both physically and mentally, providing a general feeling of well-being that you cannot find in the city.
Walking in the mountains is a social activity: sharing an adventure with family or friends
If during the week it is difficult to organize a walk with other people, a hike in the mountains instead is the perfect opportunity to share a day with friends or family. Walking and talking with other people means that you don't think as much about fatigue, making the hike is easier and more fun. There are many itineraries suitable for families, such as those that you can find in our article "Hiking on lake george: top 6 hikes to do".
For those who love hiking alone instead, the mountain can be a moment of reflection, detachment from hectic daily life, and immersion in nature.
Walking in the mountains to get out of your comfort zone and increase self-esteem: an opportunity to test yourself
A walk in the mountains is what you need to disconnect from your daily routine and do something different, in a place where you can get rid of all unnecessary thoughts and become one with nature. Reaching a predetermined destination, moreover, can increase your self-esteem and help you become aware of your abilities.
How to take advantage of walking: our advice
Although walking is a spontaneous and natural activity, it is always good to keep in mind some tricks to avoid problems and fully enjoy the benefits.
First, it is necessary to maintain straight posture, avoiding arching your back. Correct posture makes you less fatigued and prevents pain in your spine and neck. Your shoulders must be relaxed while your hands must not remain in your pockets so that your arms are free to swing alternately with your legs, in order to balance your weight and provide more thrust.
Concerning how to place your feet during a walk, pay particular attention to the "roll", that is the wave movement that the foot does from the moment in which it comes in contact with the ground until the moment in which it is lifted. The first contact with the ground is with the heel and then the rest of the sole of the foot continues the movement until it is completely adjacent to the surface. In this way the weight of the body is cushioned gradually and is not concentrated on a single point of the foot. The roll then ends with the lifting of the heel and the gradual detachment of the sole of the foot from the ground until even the toe is no longer in contact with the surface. Placing your feet in correctly helps you balance and not overload muscles in your legs, which could get tired. It is a good idea to do some exercises to mobilize your ankles before physical activity.
One last aspect that should not be overlooked is choosing the right shoe for walking. The most important characteristic for a walking shoe is comfort. In fact, shoes that are too narrow or too wide could worsen the roll of your foot or even affect your posture. Another aspect to consider when choosing walking shoes is the cushioning of the sole. A well cushioned sole absorbs the force of our body better and lessens fatigue in muscles and joints. Even the flexibility of the sole is important; the more flexible a sole is, the more natural the roll is.