May 8, 2015
National walking month
The month of May brings an influx of fresh blooms and warmer weather, signalling that spring is well and truly upon us.
It is during this month that many people pledge to make the most of the better weather by getting fit and staying in shape, all the while embracing the great outdoors. That's why charity Living Streets has launched its National Walking Month campaign, which encourages individuals to walk more often and reap the health rewards.
Here's why you should choose to go by foot:
Putting down your car keys and embarking on a brisk walk brings many health benefits, not just in the short-term, but in the long-run too.
Researchers in Stanford found that walking outdoors in the fresh air can help to boost brain activity by heightening creative inspiration. The study involved participants engaging in creative brainstorming sessions while walking and sitting. Those who walked performed better in word-association tests that measured insight and focused thinking, than those who carried out the tests while sitting down.
The results of this study lend itself to improving job performance – for example, when you're next stuck for inspiration on a work project, go for a walk outside to get your creative juices flowing.
What's more, researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City report – in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology – that a two-minute walk every hour could reduce the health risks posed by sitting for extended periods of time – such as diabetes and heart disease.
Walking has also been shown to help those with a sweet tooth get rid of their cravings for sugary foods like chocolate, which – when consumed in high quantities – can increase the risk of health implications such as stroke and high blood pressure.
In their study, a team of scientists at the University of Innsbruck in Austria found that upon being presented with a selection of sugary treats, participants who had prior engaged in walking reported fewer cravings than those who had remained sedentary.
Walk more often
Although you might lead a busy lifestyle, there's no excuse to not fit walking into your daily routine.
During the month-long campaign, Living Streets has also set up Walk to Work Week (May 11th-15th) – a free event that challenges employees to walk to work.
All workplaces can opt to take part in this healthy challenge that enables colleagues to log their walks – whether it's to work, a meeting or from lunch – add up total calories burned and take part in individual and team activities.
While you might not live close enough to walk to work, this doesn't make you exempt from the challenge. You could drive part of the way, park your car and then walk the last stretch.
If you normally eat your lunch while sitting at your desk, make a conscious effort to get up and go outside for a brisk walk – even if it's just for ten minutes or so.
Next time you consider getting in your car to make the two-minute drive to your local shop, reconsider and walk the journey instead.
Incorporating these small, but effective, changes into your lifestyle will make a big difference to your health, fitness and overall mood.