Why regular walking can give your mind and body a boost

Posted 27th April 2022

As spring has arrived and the days are getting longer and warmer, why not dust off your walking shoes and head out for some fresh air.

Walking has been described by the neuroscientist, Shane O’Mara as one of the great overlooked superpowers. Regular walking unlocks the cognitive powers of the brain like nothing else and walking makes us healthier, happier and brainier.

Mr O’Mara also says that walking is good for heart health, as well as gut health, helping the passage of food through the intestines and that regular up-tempo walking also acts as a brake on the ageing of our brains.

Obviously, one of the great things about walking is that it is free and accessible. Whether you want to do a ten minute stroll around the block or are focused on doing 10,000 steps a day it’s one of those exercises where you need little else than decent footwear and weather appropriate clothing.

Here are some reasons why getting outside in the fresh air this spring can improve your health and wellbeing:

A great stress reliever

Research by the Mental Health Foundation in 2020 found that 62% of adults found relief from the stress of Covid-19 by taking a walk. Nearly half the respondents also felt that spending time in green spaces has helped them cope with rising pandemic-related anxiety. Even if the distance travelled wasn’t particularly far and little walking was involved, getting outside has had a positive impact on people’s mental wellbeing.

It makes you happier

Walking in the fresh air causes your heart to pump more and breathe in more oxygen. The ‘happy hormone’ serotonin is affected by the amount of oxygen you have in your blood. Serotonin promotes a sense of happiness and well-being so the more fresh air you have, it will help to significantly boost your mood.

Cleans out your lungs

Sitting indoors can cause us to breathe more shallowly, inhaling air into the top of the lungs. However, when walking outdoors this encourages increased diaphragmatic breathing, which means more air is drawn deep into the bottom of the lungs. This helps bring more oxygen into the lungs, but also helps the lungs to expel more airborne toxins from the body.

Boosts your immune system

Getting outside can boost your immune system as bacteria and virus have less chance of survival in fresh air and sunlight. This can help people avoid catching colds and flu or at least reduce the symptoms. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.

Also now it’s spring people in the UK can get vitamin D from sunlight exposure which is essential to help the body absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet which are important minerals for health bones, teeth and muscles.

More chances to be sociable

Finally going outside for a walk gives people a chance to talk to others. Saying hello to people you pass on a walk or popping into a café for coffee with a friend are all opportunities to be sociable, which in turn can improve mental wellbeing.

We hope we have inspired you to head outdoors for a walk. Why not ask one of your neighbours or friends if they would like to accompany you and make a morning or afternoon of it. Our residents living in retirement communities could even set up a walking group and make arrangements for a weekly or monthly stroll around the local area.

Happy walking!