Walk Your Way to Better Health – For You and the Environment
The magical number of 10,000 steps a day
For decades we’ve heard about a magic number: 10,000. Health experts have long said that if we take 10,000 steps every day we’ll be infinitely healthier and happier. So we’ve hauled out the pedometers, phone apps and smartwatches in our never-ending quest to look and feel better.
Did you ever think of where this wonderful number came from and if it’s actually true? Of course, every form of exercise is good for us, but is it really necessary to take that many steps every single day?
This dates back to a marketing campaign in the 1960s which was launched just before the Tokyo Olympics. A pedometer called the Manpo-kei was being promoted. ‘Man’ means 10,000, ‘po’ means steps and ‘kei’ means meter. The device was a huge success and the number stuck. But, even though it started out as a marketing gimmick, taking 10,000 steps every day is still excellent for your health, and for the environment. Here’s why.
Body and Mind Benefits
From your heart health to your muscles and your skeleton, walking is excellent for your body because:
- It reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces cholesterol
- Eases back pain
- Increases bone density
- Helps to control body weight
Healthy mind, healthy body
Healthy mind, healthy body is not just some advertising slogan, there is truth to it and it works both ways. A physically fit body increases the amount of endorphins in our minds. This means a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Conversely, the world is realizing more and more how important mental wellbeing is to our physical health. Stress can wreak havoc on the body. It can weaken the immune system, cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression and even serious illnesses like adrenal fatigue and heart problems. Walking is a great way to alleviate stress, combat anxiety and give us an overall sense of wellbeing. Studies have proven that it improves self-perception, mood and sleep quality.
And Then There’s Air
When we go for a walk outside, it’s not only the exercise that’s good for our physical and mental wellbeing. Fresh air has a range of surprising benefits, for example:
- It improves the digestive system – When we walk around in fresh air, the flow of oxygen helps us to digest food more effectively.
- It helps you heal faster – Healing is taxing and oxygen therapy has been proven to help. What better way to help the body heal than to give it more oxygen, naturally?
- It helps clear the lungs – Indoor air is not ideal, it doesn’t always have the right balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Stepping outside for some fresh air will cause the blood vessels in the lungs to dilate which helps the lungs to cleanse and repair tissue.
- Improving heart rate and blood pressure – Because fresh air has plenty of oxygen, a few deep breaths will bring more of it into your body which means your heart can relax because it takes less effort to deliver what the body needs. This makes your heart rate slower which lowers your blood pressure.
Walking is Also Great for the Environment
I keep saying that everyone can help save the planet. And yes, we have major issues with all types of pollution and it’s not going to be fixed overnight. But, the more people do something about lowering their own carbon footprint, the better chance of turning things around for generations to come. Every time we choose to walk instead of drive, we are reducing our carbon footprint. Even if it’s a little bit at a time, it makes a difference. After all, without drops of water there would not be an ocean. And once we get into the habit of having regular walks, there are a few other smart ways to help the planet:
- Use refillable water bottles - Single-use plastic bottles are a massive strain on the environment and on waste management systems.
- Recycle or resell your walking shoes and gear - Did you know that the average pair of walking shoes have a lifespan of over 800kms? There’s really no need to get a new pair every few months. If you really feel you need to, sell your old shoes or find a collection and recycling station.
- Plan walking into your next trip - When travelling abroad, try to offset your carbon footprint by walking around as much as possible instead of using cars, buses or trains. You will not only enjoy the benefits of exercise and fresh air, but also have a better opportunity to become immersed in local culture. You’ll be amazed at what you discover when you explore a new area or country on foot.
All in all, taking up walking is a great idea, for you and for the planet. So, go get your shoes on and get moving!