Want more energy? Spend money. Get a pill which might or might not work. An easier and less costly remedy? Go for a walk. A new study found that even gentle lunchtime strolls can improve people’s moods and improve their ability to handle stress at work. I’m going to admit to a bias here because I walk at lunchtime nearly every day and I walk at least one other time during the day as well. Still, studies find that people who walk or otherwise exercise regularly tend to be calm, alert and happier than those less active lumps, I mean employees.
Previous studies looked at long-term benefits but this study examined the effects on hour-by-hour changes in people’s moods depending on whether or not they exercised. What they found was surprise, surprise—it’s difficult to attract men to join a walking program. But, they also found that in just 10 weeks and in three 30 minute walks per week, people responded remarkably different to the questions when they walked as compared to when they did not. Here’s the story.
Some studies have found that walking works as an anti-aging exercise. That’s not to say that the participants don’t age but that they age better. Walking improved their lung capacity and how well they performed doing simple daily tasks. The same study found that after 4 months the participants who walked had decreased their disability risk by 41 percent. A meta-analysis of research on walking found that it reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent and cut the risk of dying during the study (which ran about 12 years) by 32 percent.
Researchers have found that people who exercise have younger DNA—as much as nine years younger. Of course the best exercise is the one you actually do but the benefit to walking is that it costs very little, requires no special training or equipment and almost everybody can do it. In a Harvard Health Publication walking was called “the poster boy for moderate exercise.”
If walking is good then you’d think that running was better and it certainly bears out that you’re likely to get better aerobic exercise from running than you can from walking but running is often hard on the body and walking has something else that’s important to older bodies—because walkers always have one foot on the ground at all times, walking at any pace is safer.
So, why all the fuss about walking? Americans live pretty sedentary lives. Most Americans don’t even get the minimum amount of exercise recommended. This will bite us fairly soon as those over 65 get closer and closer to becoming a majority population. Being unhealthy doesn’t just mean that you die earlier, it means that you have less say as to whether or not you remain in your own home. It also increases your chances of having cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s, limits your mobility, prevents you from socializing with your friends and neighbors, creates a burden on both society and your family and increases your chances of having some serious health issues. In short, being unhealthy will cost you financially, physically and mentally. Next to not smoking, getting regular physical exercise is the best thing you can do for your health but it’s also the best thing you can do for your pocketbook.