Since we’re an adventure travel company, you may think we’re all about the high-intensity, high-impact, breath-whooshing-out-of-you stuff. That’s what real adventure is, right? Heart racing, sweaty palms, fear and exhilaration fizzing through you…
Nope. That’s just one side of it.
There’s a reason we take people trekking for weeks on end with nomadic shepherds, or through the landscape around the highest mountain in Northern Africa. In fact, there are 15 reasons – and they explain our deep and abiding love of walking and what it can do to your mind, body and soul.
So, here’s why you need to walk more often.
FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
- The simple act of getting outdoors relieves all kinds of modern stress, in ways that the medical profession is just beginning to understand….
- …and it also seems it’s great for tackling depression…
- …and combined with some occasional, self-imposed sleep deprivation, it can give you a huge boost to your optimism and sense of well-being. (Although, see below on the importance of sleep.)
- Walking helps your creative thinking process. Brain fried, and good ideas just not coming? Go for a walk. There’s good science to support this – and the more mindful your walk, the better it’ll be for your creativity. It also seems good for slowing your declining memory as you get older.
- Walking, like all forms of exercise, will give you better quality sleep – meaning you can get a deeper sleep in much less time, instead of laying there for hours, cursing your restless mind and body (which is a growing problem in the modern world).
FOR YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH
“Walking is a man’s best medicine.” – Hippocrates
- It burns calories and helps keep your weight down. From Harvard Medical School: “A study of 12,000 adults found that people who live in cities have a lower risk of being overweight and obese than people who live in the suburbs. In Atlanta, for example, 45% of suburban men were overweight and 23% were obese; among urbanites, however, only 37% were overweight and 13% obese. The explanation: driving vs. walking. To stay well, walk for 30 to 45 minutes nearly every day. Do it all at once or in chunks as short as five to 10 minutes. Aim for a brisk pace of three to four miles an hour, but remember that you’ll get plenty of benefit from strolling at a slower pace as long as you stick with it.”
- It’s great for your heart. Increase your walking speed to just north of comfortable, and you’ll give your favourite pump a steady workout that will bolster its health for the rest of your life. A study by University College London of over 450,000 people, spanning an average of 11 years, found a walking habit reduced the likelihood of cardiovascular events (aka. heart attacks and other horrors) by almost a third.
- If you want strong bones, you need to exert your body under the pull of gravity. Running is great – but a little too intense for many folk. If you’re looking for something gentler and therefore more sustainable in the long run, walking’s the sweet-spot, with surprisingly beneficial results. “Those who walked for at least eight hours a week (or did the equivalent amount of another activity) were as unlikely to suffer hip fractures as women on hormone replacement therapy, long known to protect bones.” – New York Times
- You don’t need fancy equipment. Therefore you’re far more likely to actually do it – with all the health benefits of an exercise regime you actually stick to. Going for a run first thing in the morning is hard – as author Charles Duhigg found in his bestselling book The Power Of Habit. Walking? It’s easy. You’ve been doing it all your life – and you can do it in the clothes you’re wearing right now. Off you pop.
- A walk a day can add years to your life. More than 98% of Japanese school-children walk to school – and the country has the highest life-expectancy rate in the world. Are the two connected? You bet they are
WE’RE FORGETTING HOW TO WALK
- “Why don’t Americans walk more?” asked Slate in 2012. There’s a simple answer to this – automobiles – and deeper, less fixable ones (the way streets are designed, the way walking is perceived as risky in built-up areas, and so on). Europe’s following suit. It’s a trend. So what are we going to do about it?
- Purposeless walking – a walk for the sheer joy of moving – is a dying art. We’re too used to being carried around, and we only travel when we need to get somewhere. Charles Dickens spent huge amounts of time walking without an important destination in mind. He was also one of the most prolific writers of his age. He was also, by modern terms, a slacker. All these things are related.
- When was the last time you used a map? Big papery thing, laid out in a grid, you can never fold it up again properly? Remember those? Sadly, map-reading is becoming a thing of the past – and that’s bad news for our brains, because reading a map is a terrific mental workout. So, keep your gadgets handy (we’re not crazy – who wants to live in a world without GPS?) – but when you go for a walk, take a map as well, and use it. Your brain will thank you later.
WALKING TEACHES YOU HOW TO SEE BETTER
- With all the benefits to your mind and body, you’d think that a walking habit would improve your awareness of the world – and you’d be right (PDF). Like running, it’s also meditative: the calming rhythm of one foot in front of the other, repeated for hours. It has has a proven effect to quieten the mind – and the busier your life is, the more your mind needs that kind of silence.
- The natural world – aka. everything just outside your front door – has a language all of its own. If you can learn to speak that language, you can use clues in the land, the sea and the sky to predict the weather, navigate without the aid of modern gadgets, and understand the fascinating rhythms of outdoor life we humans are so good at sealing ourselves away from, in our fancy planes, trains and automobiles. Here’s a guy who can help you – and this book should get you started.
Images: Pixabay, Rug & Rock