Walking is one of the simplest exercises that most people tend to neglect. It is the most basic aerobic exercise, yet the most underrated one. We walk to the kitchen, to the bedroom, to the food court, to the bus stop. The Japanese even came up with Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, as a preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.
However, with the advancement of technology, the convenience of transportation and the sedentary nature of jobs here in Singapore, fewer people are spending enough time walking. Studies have shown that a minimum of 10,000 steps should be attained each day in order to achieve the best health benefits.
If you are lazy to walk, maybe you want to read the following 10 reasons why you should start accumulating the mileage.
1. It Helps To Prevent Diabetes (and lose weight too!)
Walking has the ability of shrink your abdominal fats, which makes it THE EXERCISE for diabetes prevention. In the latest study published in the International Journal of Obesity mentioned at the start of this article, researchers did a research among 111 postal-service workers of both genders. None had a personal history of cardiovascular disease. Each worker wore a sophisticated activity tracker for a week. At the end of the week, the researchers determined how many hours these workers had spent in sedentary and active position.
The results were not surprising at all. Workers who spent most of the day sitting down tend to have larger waist circumference, higher BMI and worse blood sugar control and cholesterol profiles as compared to those who were more active.
A 2014 report by UK’s Public Health England (PHE) showed that men whose waist line exceeded 102cm are five times more likely to develop diabetes as compared to those with smaller waist line. Women whose waist line exceeded 88cm have three times the risk.
The hypotheses behind could be that 1) abdominal obesity may cause fat cells to release inflammatory chemicals that disrupt the body’s response to insulin and that 2) obesity may trigger changes to the body’s metabolism that cause fat tissues to release substances involved in the development of insulin resistance.
Hence, by reducing abdominal fats, you could well reduce the risk of diabetes as well.
2. It Helps To Control Your Cholesterol Level
A 2005 study published in the Official Journal of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology suggested a relation between an increase in walking time and a reduced non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-C) level. Non-HDL-C (otherwise known as Low DL-C) are the bad cholesterol (as opposed to HLD-C) which will eventually lead to atherosclerosis – a common underlying cause of cardiovascular diseases.
3. It Helps To Strengthen Your Heart
Lower LDL-C will, in turn, make your heart stronger. According to the researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, while the lowest and highest levels of physical activity stood the greatest risk of heart failure at 47% and 51% respectively, walking or cycling for 20 minutes each day helps reduce the risk by 21%.
4. It Helps To Reduce High Blood Pressure
Not surprisingly, walking can also help to reduce high blood pressure as well. Researchers at the Korea Institute of Sports Science in Seoul studied the blood pressure of 23 men with prehypertension and hypertension after a brisk walking session. Four of them were made to walk for 10 minutes while the rest, for 40 minutes. The results reflected that blood pressure dropped by at least 2 points after each type of exercising session.
In fact, reasons 2, 3 and 4 are interlinked. When you exercise, your heart becomes stronger and LDL-C will be eradicated from your system. Hence, your heart will become more efficient and able to pump blood throughout your body better. As the heart pushes more blood with each beat, it will beat slower and your blood pressure will, therefore, be under control.
5. It Helps To Tones Your Legs And Butt
Since walking puts your quadriceps, hamstring and glutes and your lower leg muscles to work, it will eventually help with the toning of your legs and (look here girls) glutes (aka butt) muscles.
6. It Helps With Your Mental Health
Walking helps to trigger endorphins, which can help to promote relaxation, and prevents anxiety and depression. Since walking is some form of exercise, and exercise also aids in the production of serotonin and norepinephrine hormones – the neurotransmitters that can help to eradicate depression.
Furthermore, sport and exercise psychologist K. Kip Matthews also expressed how exercise can help to ward off depression by enhancing the body’s abilities to respond to stressors.
He said in an interview with CNN, “What appears to be happening is that exercise affords the body an opportunity to practice responding to stress, streamlining the communication between the systems involved in the stress response. The less active we become, the more challenged we are in dealing with stress.”
Furthermore, walking (especially in the park or garden during the day) will expose you to more fresh air, and hence, more oxygen. This pure oxygen will provide each and every cell in your system a boost of energy, making you feel better and energetic for the rest of the day.
7. It Helps To Prevent Dementia
According to 2010 statistics provided by the Ministry of Health (MOH), there are about 20,000 Singaporeans suffering from dementia, with a prevalence rate of 5.7% among those aged 65 and above. However, the number is expected to rise to about 45,000 by 2020. On the other hand, the Alzheimer’s Disease Association of Singapore (ALZ) projects such cases to increase to 103,000 by 2030.
However, there is a way we can prevent dementia. Studies have shown that walking can help reduce the risk of the disease by 50%. A study led by Dr. Kirk Erickson in 2011 figured out the connection between exercising and an increased hippocampal volume. Hippocampus, a crucial part of the brain where long-term memories are stored, appears to shrink in size as one ages. Yet, the study found out that even simple exercises like aking a 30-40 minutes brisk walk a few times a week is capable in increasing its volume by 2%, effectively reversing age-related loss in volume as a result.
And even if you are still young, Dr. Erickson advised, “The earlier you begin, the greater the protection for your brain – but exercise leads to improved brain function at any age.”
8. It Helps Spark Creativity
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”. Even contemporary French philosopher Frédéric Gros assented with him.
Gros wrote in A Philosophy of Walking, “Walking can provoke these excesses: surfeits of fatigue that makes the mind wander, abundances of beauty that turn the soul over, excesses of drunkenness on the peaks, the high passes (where the body explodes).”
He elaborated further, “Walking ends by awakening this rebellious, archaic part of us: our appetites become rough and uncompromising, our impulses inspired. Because walking puts us on the vertical axis of life: swept along by the torrent that rushes just beneath us.”
9. It Helps To Promote Healthier Skin
If you want to ‘look’ healthy, healthier skin could be your answer. Walking helps to increase the circulation of blood and thus provides the necessary nutrients your skin requires to be strong, firm and elastic.
The sunlight that you are exposed to during your walk helps your body in the production of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is said to have an anti-inflammatory effect on healthy skin, which works effectively well against acne outbreak. Furthermore, since Vitamin D is essential for the proper control of smooth muscle cell function, cardiac muscle function, and the proper formation of many different cells throughout your body, it can affect how well you age.
It is recommended that approximately 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen usually lead to sufficient vitamin D synthesis, and healthier skin.
10. It Provides A Great Bonding Time
What’s better than to take a stroll with your friends and talk about your life while enjoying the scenery?
Take part in Step Challenge 2017!
Step Challenge is back for its second season. From 22 July till 9 August, the participant who clocked the most number of steps from each category will walk away (no pun intended) with an Apple Watch.
There are six categories:
For individuals, there are the Active NSmen, Active Youth (< 25 year-old), Active Women and Active Masters (>40 year-old).
Participants can also take part as a team (3-4 pax per team) under Active Families & Friends and Active Corporates.
Interested parties can download and install the ActiveSG App from App Store or Google Play. Sign in and select S’pore Step Challenge on your Home screen and join one individual and one team challenge. Thereafter, you will just need to launch the app every day in order to clock your steps!
Participants who clock 50,000 steps during the campaign period will be able to redeem to a limited edition NS50 Jerrycan water bottle. Furthermore, these participants will also be eligible for lucky draw and stand a chance to win S$100!
Health benefits and material benefits coming together in one. So get up from your comfort zone now and start moving!
Feel free to check out the official website to learn more about the campaign.