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Walking for Your Physical Health and Emotional Wellbeing

I'm Katie DeBakey and I'm just trying to share the good word about health and wellness to everyone who will listen.


One of the best activities you can do for your physical health and emotional wellbeing is to walk. Humans were designed to walk several miles a day in order to hunt and gather, and for the majority of the time that our species has roamed the earth that is just what we have done. It was only until very recently, just a few generations back, that we became so sedentary due to advances in technology. We can now drive to get our food, and anything else that we need or want, if in fact we don’t just order it directly to our doorstep. If we do venture out to shop for goods almost everything you could need or want can be found in a single store or shopping center. We also walk around our homes to clean them much less due to the convenience of autonomous vacuums and mops. And don’t get me started on desk jobs. Today, we live more like veal than free range humans. Yet we wonder why our health is ever fading and why our mental wellbeing is at an all-time low as a society.

Turning your physical and emotional health around can greatly and very easily be accomplished by simply stepping outside your door and taking a walk. In fact, you don’t even have to go outside. If your office space is big enough and the weather is a little rough, by all means, walk laps around the building, or walk on a treadmill if you have access to one. Be sure to breathe in deeply, relax, clear your mind and most importantly, enjoy!


Walking Works Wonders for Your Mood

Let’s start with my favorite benefit. Walking reduces the stress hormones in your body like cortisol and releases endorphins that make you feel good. Blood and energy flow to the brain are also increased, stimulating mental acuity. A study conducted by University of Texas reviewed a group of individuals with major depressive disorders by dividing them into one group that walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes and one group that rested for 30 minutes. While both groups reported a more positive mood afterword, the group that walked on the treadmill reported a higher degree of both positive wellbeing and vigor. Furthermore, brain scans conducted after exercise have shown improvement in the areas of the brain that are responsible for regulating mood.

I absolutely love the way I feel after a nice relaxing walk outside. It’s the perfect way to clear your head and bring your stress level down while simultaneously giving you an energy boost. When I walk outside, I practice being present. Note that I said practice. We all have a thousand things running through our minds at any given moment and it’s important to put in the effort to look at the nature surrounding you, breathe in deeply, and think about how great it is to be outside and moving your body. Look up at how beautiful the sky is; and the clouds. Take notice of the foliage around you, and the birds hopping from branch to branch in the trees. You might even go so far as to initiate a smile and say hello to the neighbors that are passing you by. How could this not improve your mood?

Now look, if it’s 105 degrees or sleeting and freezing cold outside, walking in the elements might not feel so great or relieve very much stress. That’s when it’s a good idea to hop on the treadmill. I do it all the time in the Winter. I either choose one in the cinema room at the gym and zone out to a movie or I use the one in front of big, beautiful windows in my apartment complex gym so I can take notice of the nature outside.


On to Lowering Your Blood Pressure

Walking is an integral part of a routine you will need to integrate into your life if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Trust me, I know. I was diagnosed with critically high blood pressure at the ripe old age of 36 due to taking decongestant every night for three months straight to quell my chronic allergies. (Which are now gone due to diet and lifestyle changes. More on that in another article.) I had no I idea that I was damaging my cardiovascular system at all, much less that I was on the verge of having a stroke at any second due to taking over the counter medicine.

Regardless, I needed to get my blood pressure down, and fast. I was immediately put on blood pressure medication, but I wanted to get off of it as soon as possible, if possible. I wanted to bring my blood pressure down and keep it down naturally.

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Walking was a huge part of what helped me out. (Here) is one of many studies that shows how blood pressure is lowered by incorporating a walking routine into your schedule. When you’re steadily increasing your heartrate ever so slightly and consistently it’s bound to help strengthen and heal your heart and cardiovascular system. And let’s not forget about the hormone balancing we discussed in the previous section. Hormones play a huge role in cardiovascular health.


Protects and Eases the Pain in Your Joints

Walking helps to ease joint pain caused by arthritis, tendonitis, injury, or just plain stiffness due to inactivity. This low impact exercise increases blood flow to the cartilage, which aids in delivering the nutrients it needs. Keeping your cartilage healthy provides cushion and protection for the end of your bones that meet up at the joints.

Walking also builds muscle around your joints which holds everything in place so to speak. Research has shown that having weak thigh muscles can increase the risk of osteoarthritis in the knee. Just small gains of strength in these muscles can significantly reduce this risk. Walking is one of the best ways to build muscle in your hips, thighs, knees, legs, ankles, and feet to help keep you moving pain free and healthy as time goes on.


Boosts Your Immune Function

Walking is a great way to get the blood flowing throughout your body. Your blood not only transports red blood cells to every organ but also the much-heralded white blood cells which protect against infection and disease. The combination of increased blood flow and the above-mentioned reduced stress can also help to decrease inflammation. The more inflamed you are, the weaker your immune system becomes. The less inflamed you are the more energy your immune system can spend on keeping you healthy. Antibodies circulate through the body more rapidly during a walk as well. The immune boosting effects of walking are only about as good as how often you walk though. Of course, maintaining a healthy, reduced stress lifestyle will help improve your immunity overall but, to really reap the rewards of immune protection you’ve got to get that blood flowing for at least 30 minutes every day. And why not just go for a nice, relaxing walk to do so?


Tone Your Legs, Glutes, and Core

Walking is a great full body workout. Especially if you go for a brisk walk. Sure, you’ll see lots of benefits from your leisurely daily stroll, don’t get me wrong. But, if you speed it up a bit and hold your posture well, you’ll really feel your core, glutes, and leg muscles engage. Stand tall, hold that tummy in (but don’t hold your breath), really press through those steps, and you’ll start to see rapid results in weeks!


Extend Your Life

Overall, it’s been proven time and time again that people who keep even a modest a daily exercise routine generally live longer, healthier, and happier lives. I imagine it’s due to the reduction in stress and inflammation, the boost in immune function which prevents disease and illness, and due to the overall happiness regular physical activity can help with. The musculoskeletal benefits it brings no doubt aid in injury prevention and mobility as one ages and that in and of itself can lead to a longer, healthier, happier life.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Katie DeBakey

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