The Walking Works report by Walking For Health looked at the evidence for the benefits of walking and included Public Health figures which suggested that if everyone in England was sufficiently active, each year this would prevent:
• 36,815 deaths from all causes.
• 12,061 emergency hospital admissions for coronary heart disease.
• 6,735 breast cancer cases.
• 4,719 colorectal cancer cases.
• 294,730 people living with diabetes.
Regular walking provides cardiovascular exercise, which serves to improve your heart and lung function. This improves your heart’s ability to pump blood to the lungs and throughout the body. Subsequently, more blood flows to the muscles and oxygen levels in the blood rise. An increase in oxygen supply helps to get rid of waste products in the tissues. Furthermore, together with a balanced diet and portion control, exercise can also assist in weight loss and improving muscle tone.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
Walking can also contribute to a healthy mind! Endorphins are chemicals which produce feelings of euphoria and calmness. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is implicated in mental health disorders such as depression and can affect mood. Diet and exercise can increase serotonin and endorphin production.
Furthermore, being outside will expose you to sunlight which will facilitate the body’s production of vitamin D which is important for strong, healthy bones, fighting infection and heart and lung function. Some research has suggested a link between vitamin D and mood. One study showed that b-endorphins increase after exposure to the sun and these make you feel good! Another study showed that vitamin D can increase the levels of serotonin which has an impact on your mood.
Walking for All
Young people aged 5 to 18 years need to do at least one hour of physical activity every day, which should range between moderate intensity (walking to school or walking the dog) and vigorous intensity activity (fast running or riding a bike fast). Adults aged between 19 and 64 and those who are aged over 65 and who are generally fit and have no health conditions that restrict their mobility should try to be active daily and seek to do at least two hours and thirty minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity such as brisk walking every week.
The Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy published a study in which it found that those who were part of walking programmes increased not only their fitness levels but also their ability to physically function. This increase meant that those who were regular walkers had more energy, performed daily tasks more easily and could still enjoy activities such as dancing.
Walking and Physiotherapy
Did you know that physiotherapists have been called upon to promote walking as a means of helping people get fit and stay active?
Walking helps to maintain joint mobility and muscle strength. Furthermore, regular moderate activity, which can include walking, can help to treat and reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis (wear and tear). Walking can also increase bone mineral density in children, maintain strong bones in the adolescent population and help in the prevention of osteoporosis. High impact exercise in younger people puts load through the bones and increases bone density, however in those who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, low impact, weight bearing exercise such as gentle walking is more appropriate.