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Walking in green spaces can reduce your stress levels and boost your mood, say researchers. Photograph: Alamy  

Walking in green spaces can reduce your stress levels and boost your mood, say researchers. Photograph: Alamy

 

Take a Walk

Walking is good for you in more ways that you may have thought. Not only does regular walking keep our physical bodies feeling better, but it also benefits our mental health. And there are the added benefits to the environment. Leaving your car at home reduces air pollution. Walking with friends and family strengthens your social ties. Walking in your community also helps you to get to know your neighbors which can build a better and more effective neighborhood watch program. Walking makes sense all the way around - nothing to join, no membership dues to pay, and no special equipment to buy!

The Guardian put out an article on the benefits of walking. Read it and you’ll find all the encouragement you need to get started on a regular routine! Here is a small excerpt:

A recent report by the Ramblers and Macmillian Cancer Support entitled Walking Works (PDF) details the health benefits of the humble walk. The report found that regular walking to fulfill the 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise every week recommended by the UK's chief medical officer could save 37,000 lives each year. It could also lead to nearly 300,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes.

In some cases walking can be more effective than running. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, found that brisk walking reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than running. They observed participants aged between 18 and 80 over a six-year period and found that walking reduced the risk of heart disease by 9.3%, while running reduced it by 4.5%.

And there's even more good news: 30 minutes of brisk walking over five days could help you sleep easy, according to research by Oregon State University. A study by the university showed that walking helped participants sleep better and feel more alert during the day.

The recommended amount of exercise for adults is 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. That breaks down to 30 minutes of exercise over five days a week.

Even though 30 minutes is the ideal, Dr I-Min Lee, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, suggests starting with three shorter 10-minute walks each and slowly building up to the 30-minute walk once you feel comfortable.

The mental health charity Mind found in their report Ecotherapy: The Green Agenda for Mental Health that country walks can reduce depression and raise self-esteem. So ditch the smoggy congested route for a nearby park or green space when you head out for your 30-minute walk.

Walking also helps the planet. By parking the car and walking instead, you help to reduce air pollution. This is particularly important for short journeys. Taking the car for short journeys uses almost twice the CO2 per mile. So leaving the car keys at home, helps you and the environment.
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Maybe you don’t have the lush open countryside to walk through as the couple in the photo above, but you probably have a park nearby, or a neighborhood path, and if not, you may have a yard to walk around or if things aren’t conducive for a safe walkabout in your neighborhood, you might at least have a hallway in your apartment that can become a walking track of sorts. For best results, though, try connecting with your neighbors to see if they’d like to form a walking group. That way you can get out together and enjoy one other’s company. It takes time to solidify a new pattern in your routine, but once you’ve got it in place, you’ll be feeling so much better!

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Cover photo by Kathleen Franks

Background image by Getty Images

© 2014 - 2017 Kathleen Franks