Why a Long Walk is Better Than You Think
BENEFITS OF WALKING
Walking can provide innumerable benefits to your health. In fact, research has found that walking just 30 minutes a day may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, maintain body weight and lower obesity, reduce your risk of breast and colon cancer, improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels, enhance mental well being, reduce your risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes, improve blood lipid profile and reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Whew that’s a lot –and that’s just the beginning! (Note from Luke: Many of my clients and others who ask me for the best fat loss advice hear the phrase "walk more" from me. Sometimes it's hard to accept that something so simple can be so powerful - but this article proves why it works so well)
Unfortunately, especially in the working world, it can be heard to find time to stay active. The average American actually spends nine to 10 hours of their day sitting, and certain occupations, spend closer to 12 hours a day sitting (yikes). This is a scary statistic when you consider that sitting for more than eight hours a day is associated with a 90 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes, along with increased risks of heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.
The good news: walking can reduce these risks and anyone can do it!
Of course, exercise is healthy. But you don’t need to go crazy or participate in high-intensity activities to reap the health benefits of physical activity. Just a brisk walk can have amazing effects on lowering cortisol levels, burning fat and improving your mental health.
LOWERING CORTISOL LEVELS
First and foremost: what is cortisol?
Similar to adrenaline, the hormone cortisol alters the way your body functions during a fight-or-flight situation. While adrenaline speeds up your heart rate and increases your energy, cortisol promotes the release of glucose into your blood and provides a source of fuel.
Cortisol has several negative effects on the body. It suppresses your digestive and immune functions and over time elevated levels can increase your risk of developing depression, obesity, insomnia, heart disease and digestive problems. Higher cortisol levels are also linked to obesity and a worsening of skin disorders.
So how do you combat these issues? Walking is a great step! (See what I did there?)
During exercise you experience a temporary increase in cortisol levels, but it is quickly followed by a return to normal levels. Regular exercise can decrease the usual amount of cortisol in your bloodstream, leading to a reduction in symptoms of stress. According to the Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, aerobic exercise (like walking) seems to have the greatest effect on reducing cortisol levels. Especially for high-stress individuals, walking is such a potent antidote to a racing mind, anxiety nd nervousness.
Of course, it comes as no surprise that exercise has the potential to burn fat (shocking, I know). What you may not have known, though, is that the simple act of walking can be a very successful tool in burning fat.
To make the most of walking and ensure you are burning the highest levels of fat you can, it important to know that what’s known as the “fat-burning zone” is reached when you exercise at an intensity where your heart rate is 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.
In this zone of exercise intensity, 85 percent of your calories burned are fats, 5 percent are proteins and 10 percent are carbohydrates.
Believe it or not, this fat burning zone can be achieved with a brisk walking pace. When in this zone, you should be breathing heavier, feeling increased exertion, and probably sweating, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation.
IMPROVING MENTAL HEALTH
Obviously, the physical health benefits are great, but what about your mental health? – Walking has got that covered too!
I’ll start with the basics. As I’m sure many of you know exercise increases endorphins- the happy hormone! Experiencing the happy buzz following exercise for just 30 minutes a few times a week can have provide an instant boost in your overall mood.
What you may not have known is that exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress.
Not to mention, working out boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus (an important part of the brain for memory and learning). So walking can actually help prevent mental decline and improve cognitive functioning.
In fact, studies have shown that working out increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking and learning.
Because of this, workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers.
Walking is the perfect low-intensity exercise for those of you with little time or little crazy, intense athletic motivation.
Just adding a short 30-minute walk at the start or end of your day can make a huge difference in improving your overall health.
And with summer finally upon us, it’s the perfect time to take in the fresh air and enjoy the beautiful weather.
Looking for an easy strategy to get leaner? Here's how simple it can be to use walking as part of a larger fitness routine to shed fat and reduce stress.
1. Step 1 - Maintenance strength training routine of 3-5 sessions per week and a slight calorie deficit, about 10%.
2. Step 2 - Add in a 20 minute daily walk, 7 days per week.
3. Step 3 - Lengthen two of the daily walks to one hour (such as a hike or long walk to the grocery store etc at a fast pace)
4. Step 4 - Lengthen your 5 weekly 20 minute walks to 30 minutes. An old strategy of mine was to brew my morning coffee into a travel mug and go for a walk while it was still cool out (during the summer) and sip my coffee and clear my head.
5. Step 5 - Replace each 30 minute walk with a 45-60 minute walk, one week at a time.
After another 5 weeks you will be still only following your normal strength training routine, eating a small 10% deficit and walking briskly for 45-60 minutes per day. All without buying more gym passes, personal training sessions, busting your butt on a treadmill, starving yourself or going to another extreme. Simply moving more, over time leads to greater fat loss with practically ALL calories spent coming from fat while enjoying the stress lowering effects and mental health benefits of walking.
What are you waiting for? Get out there and start walking!
Avnet, Lily. "13 Mental Health Benefits Of Exercise." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 June 2017.
Bumgardner, Wendy. "Set the Pace for Fat Burning with These Walking Tips." Verywell. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2017.
Li, Piper. "What Kind of Exercise Reduces Cortisol Levels?" LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 12 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 June 2017.
Mercola, Dr. "New Study About the Benefits of Walking Daily." Mercola.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2017.