Health And Wellness

Why Walking Every Day Is So Good For You — Physically And Mentally

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couple experiencing benefits of walking every day

Did you know the benefits of walking can include not only better physical health, but mental health as well?

Walking for exercise is one of the best ways to make yourself healthier every single day, and all it requires is getting your steps in!

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If you're still wondering, "Is walking good exercise?" then read on to discover what amazing health benefits lay in store for you.

One of the many amazing people I met on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage walk last year was 85-year-old Johannes van der Pas from the Netherlands.

Walking the entire 500-mile pilgrimage route in northwestern Spain is a major physical challenge for most people. But when I met Johannes in the village of Najera, he had already walked more than 2,000 miles from his home town in Eindhoven, averaging about 20 miles per day.

Johannes not only looked much younger than his age, but could outwalk most of the hikers half his age. His simple recipe? “Just take a walk every day.”

The activity of walking is one of the best methods of keeping you healthy on a physical, mental, and soul level, according to a growing body of research.

On a technological level, the human race has made enormous strides. The downside is that many of our inventions have lured us into a sedentary lifestyle.

The average person spends most hours of the day sitting in front of a computer or mobile phone, television, or playing video games.

Lack of exercise has become a major health risk.

At the same time, we're eating foods that poison our bodies or eat too much of it in relation to body movement and maintaining a good metabolism. The result? Obesity, heart problems, and diabetes have become massive public health concerns, too.

The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which has been tracking the health behaviors of more than 200,000 women for more than three decades, has shown that even moderate walking for an average of 30 minutes a day can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes by 30 to 40 percent.

Walking at this rate can also lower the risk of breast cancer by 20 to 30 percent.

A 2018 study by UCLA researchers has found that a sedentary lifestyle is also bad for mental health.

The researchers did brain scans of 35 people aged 45 to 75, finding that those who sat the most had more thinning in an area of the brain involved with memory, a change that may be linked to cognitive decline and dementia.

Most of us are well aware that staying healthy is important.

But in reality, we treat our bodies like machines that need a “mechanic” now and then if it starts spluttering.

The good thing about walking is that you can do it anywhere and need not go to the gym or find a physical fitness instructor. The biggest obstacle: How to motivate yourself so you can do at least 10,000 steps a day as recommended by most health experts to get to a reasonable fitness level.

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How can you keep yourself motivated to keep walking?

The most common mistake is getting the walking pace right. You might start off highly motivated, then walk too much.

You end up having blistered feet, a hurting knee, or lower back pain. You might even argue that this "walking thing" is not good for you.

The best advice is to start with small walks on flat terrain in an area that you enjoy. Walking is a lot of fun if you do it right.

If you live close to a park, forest, beach, or beautiful river, you will enjoy nature even more if you consciously open up your senses to the natural surroundings. Focus all your attention on one natural sound, like the song of a bird or the gentle rustling of leaves in the breeze.

If you see walking as simply a physical necessity, you will soon lose motivation.

Even walking the same route every day can be different. You will be exposed to different sensations, meet different people, and see a different sunrise or sunset every day.

Use your dog as an excuse to take daily walks.

My personal biggest motivator is my Dalmatian, Klara. She will gently nudge my hand with her wet nose when she finds I’ve been working on the computer for too many hours. The nudging would turn into a little bark if I continue to ignore her.

Dog owners are about four times more likely than other people to meet physical activity guidelines, according to a large-scale new study of dogs and exercise.

If you're unable to own a dog, you could also volunteer to take a dog for a walk from a shelter or to take your neighbor’s dog for a walk.

You can also stay motivated by joining a walking club.

Or, if your partner or neighbor joins you for regular walking sessions. You could also ask working colleagues to have a walking meeting, or to join you for a walk around the block during the lunch break.

Remind yourself repeatedly of all the positive effects walking has on your health and well-being.

Tracking your exercise with a walking app will enable you to keep track of how well you are doing with your routine.

If you live in an environment that you find mundane and boring for walking, you could also listen to music or motivational audiobooks while you do your walk.

You could tell yourself that when you do your walk that this is your personal space, your recuperation time, and moment to relish free from distractions and obligations.

Don’t blame yourself if you miss a day.

The important thing is just to find that groove to get back into your routine.

After a few weeks when you feel that you are making headway losing weight, and feeling much better physically and mentally you will not want to fall back into bad old habits.

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Reino Gevers is a life coach and author. He has chronicled the experience of pilgrims in his book Deep Walking for Body, Mind and Soul. For more information, visit his website.