Walking may seem like such an innate part of being an able-bodied human on the planet that it needs no further inquiry — and yet, there’s something very healing and almost magical about walking from a physical, emotional, and mental perspective. Recently at THE FULLEST HQ, we’d been discussing the way walking has felt both calming and profound. Not long after, we stumbled across Organic Olivia’s deep dive into the benefits of walking. She also supported its positive impacts with clinical studies and we got the scientific validation we intuitively felt. We’re sure you can also relate to the feel good effects of taking a hike or ambling stroll. For example, have you ever struggled with a big decision — only to have it naturally resolve itself after a stroll around your neighborhood? Gone for a lunchtime walk and returned to your desk with more energy and focus? Or perhaps you have felt deeply connected to something greater as you walked a forest, desert, or beach trail? There’s scientific reasons for all of these — and we’re about to get into a few of them.
Walking Is the Antidote to Sitting
One of the realities of modern life is a lot of time sitting — in cars, in office chairs, in front of computer screens and televisions. Therefore, you can imagine our joy in learning that not only is walking beneficial for the body, it actually undoes the negative impacts of prolonged sitting.
Science Daily explains that, “Sitting for long periods of time is associated with risk factors such as higher cholesterol levels and greater waist circumference that can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic disease.” The reason for this is that when we’re sitting, our muscles don’t contract enough to effectively pump blood to the heart — this means blood can pool in the legs and can affect artery function.
The good news? Just three five-minute walks a day can actually reverse the harm caused to the arteries by prolonged sitting. So if you’re in a desk-bound job make sure to prioritize regular strolls throughout your day and feel confident you’re bringing your body back into balance.
Walking Is A Mood Booster
There’s always a lightness in our step and in our spirits after a good walk. One theory is that it’s wired into our genetic evolution. A study conducted at Iowa State University found that even 12 minutes of walking can put us in a better mood. One theory is that it’s part of our genetic evolution — in that walking has always been associated with a positive outcome like finding shelter or food. A more physiological explanation states that, “Walking helps boost your mood because it increases blood flow and blood circulation to the brain and body. It has a positive influence on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is your central nervous response system.” Either way, we know that walking has definitely been a healer in times of stress.
Walking Is Proven to Generate More Creativity Than Sitting
Anecdotally, we’ve heard famous authors, inventors, and spiritual teachers speak of walking as a tool to gain insight, imagination, and ideas. However, there’s also science to support this. One study out of Stanford demonstrated that participants “who walked instead of sitting or being pushed in a wheelchair consistently gave more creative responses on tests commonly used to measure creative thinking, such as thinking of alternate uses for common objects and coming up with original analogies to capture complex ideas.”
Again, if your work requires a lot of desk time and you’re feeling out of ideas, get up and go for a walk — who knows, you may come back with the next game-changing idea? At the very least, you’ll be more likely to find your spark than sitting and staring at your screen.
A Few More Reasons To Love Walking
There are a ton of other benefits to walking including hormonal balancing, immune support, and as a digestive aid; we particularly love walking as a nightcap after a big dinner and find it helps us process our food and connect with the outside world before bed. However, one of the most potent aspects of walking is that it is free and highly accessible. Regardless of age, fitness levels, or injuries, generally walking can be done by most people in most places and is a true gift that is gentle on our bodies, minds, and emotions. Happy walking.