For many of us, we’re used to getting our steps in when walking from one meeting room to the next. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we shifted to new communication modes. Meetings transitioned to simply clicking from one zoom to the other, increasing the amount of time we stay sedentary. For those who are still working remotely, this is a reminder to make time for movement! Contrary to how long periods of sitting have negative effects on the body, walking has a long list of benefits. In the spirit of National Walking Day, here are some reasons why you should take a break and take a walk.
A Low Maintenance Exercise
Walking requires one thing and one thing only: You! Walking is a weight-bearing exercise which means that you carry your own body weight when you walk. Unlike many other forms of exercise or movement, walking is free and almost always readily available. It is also low impact and doesn’t require any special equipment or training.
Walking is generally also an easy exercise to incorporate into your daily routine. If you don’t have the daily capacity to knock out the recommended 30-minutes at once, there are other ways to fulfill this activity over time. Take the stairs when possible, get off public transport one stop earlier, walk to or from work, walk your dog (or a neighbor’s dog), or walk to local stores instead of driving. If you want to kill two birds with one stone, multitask and take a work call to walk and talk.
Your Body Will Thank You
Walking just 30 minutes per day is a great way to improve and maintain your overall health. Research shows walking helps strengthen bones, improve balance, boost muscle power, and increase cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness. Walking also helps manage conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Consequently, it also helps reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, and some cancers.
One benefit of walking that can directly transfer to your work-life is posture. Proper posture is especially important for those spending long periods of time at a desk. Based on the way the body is positioned, a lot of pressure or tension on your joints and muscles can be eliminated. For most people, “bad” posture is usually centered around the neck, shoulder, and back area. To correct this, start by rolling your shoulders back, and down. Then, gently draw your head back, retracting your chin. The center of your ear should line up with the middle of your shoulder. If you get used to walking this way, your muscles will adjust and slowly begin correcting themselves to sit more upright at your desk and ease pressure on your body.
Free Your Mind
Walking helps us connect and be more in-tuned with ourselves and our surroundings. When we unplug from our ‘normal’ lives, put the devices away, and take a walk outdoors, our attention shifts. Now, the mind is left to observe, sense, and connect with the present. The Centers for Disease Control states a single walk can improve sleep, thinking, and learning, while also reducing symptoms of anxiety. Taking a break during the workday will help you come back to your tasks more focused, fresh, and alert.
If you’re specifically looking to get better sleep, try taking a walk during the day! If possible, walk in the morning because early light exposure has been proven to help you reset your natural circadian rhythm. A study published in the journal Sleep Health found walking also increases blood flow to the brain and improves overall brain health, helping produce deeper more restorative sleep.
Walking is also a great natural mood booster. Studies have confirmed that walking benefits your mood, by releasing endorphins, your body’s natural happy drug. Endorphins both relieve pain and create a general feeling of well-being. Walking has even been found to relieve depression in a natural way as opposed to artificial prescription drugs and herbs.