“Exercise buys you three to seven additional years of life. It is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia.”
Sanjay Sharma, professor of inherited cardiac diseases in sports cardiology at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust London.

Walking is a brilliantly simple way to nurture your health daily.

One of the reasons I started walking for health was because due to a neurological condition, for well over two years I wasn’t able to take walks. It is not something I thought I took for granted, but as the saying goes ‘you never know what you’ve got til it’s gone’ and from my experience one thing that a debilitating illness has the potential to do is infuse you with a sense of appreciation for even the simplest things in life, in a way that is hard to describe.

Although I can still lose feeling on my left side which can cut a walk short, or require the support of a walking stick at times, there is something almost magical for me now about being able to take a walk in the park or along a canal and it marked an amazing milestone in my rehabilitation!

But aside from it being something I now enjoy, health experts continue to hail the benefits of walking, mainly because it is what’s known as a ‘lifestyle exercise’ because it is something you generally have to do as you move about your day anyway; and can usually be added it into your daily routine with a few simple tweaks here and there –

Walking the kids to school, walking part way to work, getting off the bus one stop before your final destination, using the stairs everytime instead of a lift; and yes it can make things take a little longer but it’s free, a part of what you’re doing anyway and let’s face it not everyone is cut out for going to the gym! The other thing is taking a short walk around your office, up and down the stairs or around the block as a break from sitting for long periods which is more detrimental to your health and than you probably realise!

So are there actual health benefits to walking?

Well to start with, walking improves balance and coordination, strengthens muscles and reduces osteoarthritis and back pain.

Walking also helps to protect against –

1. Obesity
2. Type 2 Diabetes
3. Cardiovascular disease
4. High Cholesterol
5. High Blood Pressure
6. Memory Loss
7. And studies presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) indicated that walking every day for about 25 mins improved the health outcomes for people already diagnosed with Cancer.

So walking is simple, free and easily do-able for most, you will sneakily improve your vitamin D levels just because you’re outside more – so it makes sense that studies show it improves mood and overall wellbeing and happiness!

Not rushing through your newly scheduled extra walking and choosing to slow down and enjoy it, focus on breathing, listen to an inspirational audio or simply use it as your time to reflect on what you appreciate – you’ll supercharge the benefits of walking – I have!

Sophia Michel is an Independent Health Researcher, Health & Happiness Coach, Writer, College Lecturer, Electro-Mechanical Technician, Wife and Mother to three daughters.
Find her on Facebook at bit.ly/sophiamichel and LinkedIn at bit.ly/linksophia