Words: Paul Henderson, GQ magazine lifestyle guru
Upping your daily step count and getting a breath of fresh air is beneficial for all-round health. Walking is a great way to keep in shape, boost cognitive function and your mood. But hold on – before you grab your shoes and head out for a stroll, here are some golden nuggets of walking knowledge to take along with you.
FEEL THE LOVE
Have you heard of oxytocin? Maybe. Felt it? Most definitely. Oxytocin is a peptide hormone and neurotransmitter and is produced in the hypothalamus part of the brain. It is released commonly during sex, and also childbirth, hence its nickname the ‘love hormone’. It can also be released by walking. Enough said.
BE THE HEALTHIEST VERSION OF YOU
Being more active helps your body become stronger and thus better at eliminating toxins and strengthening your immune system. Physical exercise increases the number of white blood cells circulating in the body and those are the ones that fight infections.
Walking also improves lung efficiency (as you get fitter) and strengthens the upper respiratory system. A study found that people who take a stroll for 20 minutes a day, five days a week had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if you do still catch a cold, your symptoms could be milder.
Thirty minutes of walking a day is enough to slow cognitive decline. People who keep up a decent level of fitness were found to be a third less likely to develop dementia.
A report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine also found that people who adopt a regular brisk-walking program can significantly lower their chances of developing heart disease.
According to Friedrich Nietzsche
“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”
The German philosopher was right. Researchers at Stanford University discovered that thinking about ideas while walking (and immediately afterwards) increased creative output by nearly two-thirds. They deduced that the physical activity opened up the free flow of new ideas.
GET MORE RESTED WITH BETTER QUALITY SLEEP
One of the benefits of walking is improvements in the quality of sleep. The ideal amount is 6-8 hours for most adults, enabling the body to repair itself, boost cognitive health and improve resistance to disease. A moderate amount of exercise has been found to help those suffering from insomnia and reduce levels of obesity that can cause sleep apnoea.
Start your walking journey