When entering the new year, one often strives to leave bad life habits behind. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to increase physical activity. While the mighty gym equipment seems daunting at first, it is not really the only way to get the “perfect body.” What is the solution then? Perhaps a little underestimated activity, which is almost forgotten in the modern world, is walking. Why is walking the first step to a “perfect” body and health?
Information on how much daily physical activity is recommended can be found in the guidelines „Preporučene dnevne razine tjelesne aktivnosti za sve dobne skupine – preporuke projektnog tima Živjeti zdravo“ (eng. “Recommended daily levels of physical activity for all age groups – recommendations of the project team Living Healthy”) issued by the Croatian Institute of Public Health. The guidelines state that people over the age of 18 should acquire at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of high-intensity activity per week. Walking at 5-8 km/h consumes enough energy to be classified as “moderate intensity” and is a simple and affordable way to meet the recommendations for physical activity. More research has shown that regular walking improves quality of life and can reduce rates of chronic diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and anxiety. Additionally, this form of physical activity has been shown to reduce the potential risks of developing bone and joint diseases, such as osteoporosis and arthritis. Daily walking statistically significantly improves systolic and diastolic blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat, BMI (body mass index), total cholesterol and thus quality of life. Furthermore, walking is a proven effective, safe and cost-effective approach to increasing physical activity levels in the obese population.
“A healthy mind in a healthy body”
Some of the already mentioned benefits of walking are the improvement of mental health as well. The act of walking is a proven mood enhancer. One study found that just 12 minutes of walking resulted in increased joy, strength, attention, and confidence compared to the same time spent in a sitting position. Interestingly, research has shown that walking significantly improves creativity. It is therefore not surprising that the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche himself said: “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
Where is the best place to go for a stroll?
Walking is welcome anywhere, whether in the park next to the apartment or on the treadmill at the gym. However, if there is a forest area near you, you will be surprised by the benefits offered by a forest walk. It has been shown that the mental fatigue that individuals experience today can be reduced by contact with nature. Some research has shown that the forest environment improves emotional and cognitive health. Walking around and observing the forest has been shown to improve emotional states, such as tension and anxiety, depression and depression, anger and hostility, and confusion and fatigue. But in addition to mental benefits, staying in the woods also strengthens weakened immune functions.
Is 10,000 steps a day really necessary?
Have your cell phones ever rang with a notification that you’ve done your target number of steps for a day of 10,000 steps? Perhaps surprising is the fact that the 10,000-step reference number is not actually based on science, but was created as a marketing tactic in the 1960s by a company that makes pedometers. Is there science in those 10,000 steps after all? Research shows that more steps are better, but even a smaller amount can achieve health benefits. Thus, one study that followed 4,840 men and women, aged 40 and older, over 10 years found that those who took at least 8,000 steps a day had a 51% lower mortality rate than those who took 4,000 steps or less. mortality continued to decline as the number of steps increased, but up to 7,500 steps. The number of steps above that did not show any additional benefit. Despite everything, the most important thing is to maintain motivation, but also continuity in walking. So if you only do 2,000 steps in one day, that’s better than nothing!
Walking not only reduces cardiovascular risk, it also helps mental relaxation, and these are the two biggest problems that run through the daily lives of “modern” society. As walking is available to almost everyone and does not require a gym membership or possession of special equipment, it seems almost insane for someone to omit walking from their daily exercise. Walking truly proves to be an effective and affordable way to maintain physical as well as mental health.
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6. Oppezzo, Marily, and Daniel L. Schwartz. “Give your ideas some legs: the positive effect of walking on creative thinking.” Journal of experimental psychology: learning, memory, and cognition 40.4 (2014): 1142
7. Živjeti zdravo kod kuće: Preporučene dnevne razine tjelesne aktivnosti za sve dobne skupine – preporuke projektnog tima Živjeti zdravo, 2020., https://www.hzjz.hr/sluzba-promicanje-zdravlja/zivjeti-zdravo-kod-kuce-preporucene-dnevne-razine-tjelesne-aktivnosti-za-sve-dobne-skupine/ , accessed 14.1.2022.