Almost all of us have gained a renewed appreciation for simply going on a walk. We know it's a worthwhile form of exercise, but it's also good for your brain too.
These days, few things require such minimal effort yet reap so many benefits. Walking improves sleep and cognitive functions and reduces the symptoms of anxiety. Best of all, it takes little preparation, no special equipment and can be contracted or expanded to fit the exact amount of time you have available
Our brain cells build new connections when we go for a walk, which slows the deterioration of brain tissue and helps us perform better in memory and focus. We can even deliberately change the pace of our thoughts by varying how quickly and vigorously we walk.
We all know that walking is good for our physical health (everyone with a fitbit becomes obsessed by achieving 10,000 steps a day), but according to Dr. Jo Barton, Senior Lecturer of the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences at Essex University, we can improve our mood and self-esteem with a mere five minutes spent in nature. For those of us fortunate enough to be able to take a walk, here are five more ways to walk with purpose:
Walk for gratitude: Being able to walk is a privilege that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to do. Reflecting on that alone is enough to kick start a stream of appreciative thoughts that you can focus on while you meander through your neighborhood, conservation area, or park.
Walk for perspective: The limitations set on us by the pandemic can be draining, repetitive, and have us stuck in narrow mindsets. Walking, especially when exposed to nature, can help us recover from mental fatigue and boost creativity, allowing for a more receptive, reflective, and open mind. Pondering the beauty of nature can help shift our perspectives and increase the appreciation for everything the world still has to offer.
Walk for connection: Walking outdoors with friends and family is one of the safest social activities to partake in these days. If social distancing measures are implemented and each participant acts responsibly, walking can provide great relief to loneliness. If loved ones are unable to join the walk in-person, then a walking and talking date is just a phone call away.
Walk for learning: Going for a walk can be the perfect opportunity to learn. Grab some headphones and tune in to a podcast or audiobook to make the most of your walk.
Walk for productivity: A walk might offer you the perfect space and time for remote workers to schedule work calls or meetings. This allows us to stay productive while we walk. Or, we can take advantage of a boost in creativity and focus our reflections on brainstorming new ideas for a project that we are working on, or set new goals for ourselves.
The science is clear: walk and live longer; exercise and live even longer. Research on the benefits of walking was recently augmented by yet another study, showing that people who took 8,000 steps per day halved the risk of all-cause mortality compared to those who only took 4,000 steps per day. More...