Last year I walked 500 miles through the beautiful countryside of France and northern part of Spain on the Camino De Santiago. To say it was life-changing would be an understatement. I had never walked as exercise before, I thought it was a waste of time or something the older folks do. This experience was walking as my form of transportation, no metal encasement or wheels under a seat, just me and my legs. I did suffer from a lot of physical ailments, but all of them resolved by the end of my trek.
Most days in clinic, I recommend a minimum of 120 minutes of exercise a week. This is 20 minutes a day and my go-to form of exercise is walking. The reason I ask patients to walk outside is because I believe nature has many therapeutic elements. When I suggest this while practicing in Austin during the summer, my patients look at me like I’m a crazy person. Rightfully so. You’re usually drenched in sweat the second you step outside in the summertime in Austin. But waking up early or going after the sun goes down is very tolerable and often enjoyable, so do it! This wouldn’t be a Shiny Healthy People article without the scientific backing so here it is!
1) It helps with weight loss. I could put my reference here, but this is pretty much common sense.
2) It helps increase insulin sensitivity. A Danish study done last year showed that walking increased the amount of insulin sensitivity compared to participants who did one hour of vigorous exercise. (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0055542)
3) Walking strengthens your bones as it counts as weight-bearing activity that your doctor encourages you to do when you have osteopenia or osteoporosis. (http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2011/March/talking-of-walking-in-three-easy-pieces)
4) Helps to strengthen your heart and helps prevent heart disease and stroke. (another no-brainer)
5) Walking outside allows you to get your daily Vitamin D.
6) Helps with anxiety and depression (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027273589900032X)
7) It may help with the constant pain of fibromyalgia. I know if you have fibro, you’ll say I’m crazy to suggest exercise, but the right kind, walking, briskly, in nature, is actually really beneficial. (http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/ar3225.pdf)
8) It can reduce your risk of breast cancer. The Journal of Clinical Oncology published a study that women who walk regularly after being diagnosed with breast cancer had a 45% greater chance of survival compared to those who were inactive.
9) Walking can help decrease your risk of dementia and mental decline. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com
So there you go! Get out and get walking! I’m on may way to the desert with my parents. See you later!