"Walking is the best medicine"
Walking for thirty minutes a day will dramatically improve cardiovascular health. Walking stimulates the heart muscle to work at an intensity that pumps blood through the body bringing oxygenated blood and nutrients to all the tissues of the body, keeping them healthy. Whilst you are walking the rhythmic contraction of the muscles creates a pumping effect that is especially good for lymphatic circulation. The lymphatic system removes waste products from the body and supports the immune system and so walking has a positive effect on immune function and cellular health through the rhythmic pumping of lymphatic vessels. Walking for 30 minutes a day will boost your metabolism for up to twelve hours.
Walking can aid weight loss. If you combine half an hour of walking with a healthy diet you will lose weight, without having to do any other form of exercise. Walking after a meal will blunt the rise in blood sugar, reducing levels by up to 40-50%. Glucose receptors in the leg muscles are stimulated by walking and that helps to transport glucose out of the blood and into the muscles to be used as fuel.
Walking can be particularly beneficial for women. As oestrogen levels decline with age bone density decreases and bones become more brittle. The mechanical loading and stress placed on the skeletal structure while walking has a strengthening effect helping to keep bones and joints healthy.
Walking has a positive effect on memory and attention. Walking in nature has been shown to increase memory and attention in study subjects by up to twenty percent. Amazingly walking has been shown to affect an area of the brain called the Hippocampus, making it grow larger. The Hippocampus is linked to learning and memory and also processes information about stress which can have a negative effect on that region of the brain, as can depression. Aerobic exercise stimulates the secretion of a substance called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor which protects and regrows nerve cells slowing down age related decline.
Walking outside in the fresh air, getting vitamin D from sunlight surrounded by nature has been shown to have tremendous health benefits. The Japanese have a word for it, Shinrin yoku which means forest bathing. The idea is to go for an aimless walk with no particular direction in mind and engage all the senses.
Walking is what makes us human. As we grow from infancy we go through distinct phases of development that are essential for the optimum function of our bodies; from crawling which helps in forming the curves of the spine and to sitting upright to squatting, brachiation (pulling oneself up) to finally walking. In the words of Douglas Adams humans are " carbon based bipedal lifeforms", walking is how we explore our environment, it is how our ancestors found food, migrated and populated the planet