It gives you energy
Whether you’re looking to recapture that youthful, keep-going-and-going feeling, or you need an instant pick-me-up, exercise is your best natural remedy. That good feeling may last for up to 12 hours after a mere 20-minute, moderate-intensity workout, according to a US study. Plus, adults who walk for 30 minutes five times a week report that they have more energy to get through their daily tasks. They feel healthier, and they’re more confident than the people who walk infrequently.
Boosts your mood!
Every time you walk, your body releases hormones that make you feel good and reduce stress. A study from the University of Texas found that just 30 minutes of walking can give a temporary lift from even major depression. Walkers reported a huge 85 per cent increase in energy, and a 40 per cent improvement in wellbeing, compared with study participants who rested quietly. Their improved mood lasted about an hour.
Reduces stress eating
Find yourself reaching for a bag of chips when you’re stressed? Drop the bag and head out the door, because walking will help you blow off that steam. A Swedish study found that office workers who strolled for 30 minutes during their lunch break felt more relaxed and enthusiastic for the rest of the day than those who didn’t walk.
Can’t carve out that amount of time?
The study revealed that even a 15-minute stroll had beneficial effects.
Can stave off cravings
Walking increases your energy, and that can keep you from reaching for the biscuit jar for an afternoon snack. Like other forms of exercise, it can also ramp up levels of feel-good endorphins, says dietitian Sharon Richter. This effect may counteract your yearning for a sweet treat, which your body often craves for a temporary mood boost.
In a British study from the University of Exeter, researchers had 25 regular chocolate eaters take a test or handle a chocolate bar after either walking or sitting for 15 minutes. The results? The walkers who took the test reported less stress about the exam, and the chocolate bar holders found that they had fewer cravings for the chocolate than the non-walking chocoholics.
Helps you sleep better
Poor sleep is a primary driver of weight gain. Studies show that not getting enough shut-eye suppresses your production of leptin, the hormone that controls your sense of fullness, while increasing your levels of ghrelin, the hunger-stimulating hormone. So it’s no wonder that a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who average five or fewer hours of sleep a night are 15 per cent more likely to be obese than those who get at least seven hours of shut-eye. (And if you’re always tired, you probably don’t feel much like exercising anyway.)
Exercise, like walking, can help you score a better night of all-important sleep. For the best results, try scheduling your workout for the morning. A study published in the US journal Sleep found that people who got moving in the morning nodded off more quickly at night and slept more soundly.
Walking improves productivity
When you’re having a hectic day, it’s tempting to polish off that sandwich at your desk or between errands. But taking time for a midday stroll has a big payoff. Australian and UK scientists found that going on a 30-minute lunchtime walk can help you overcome that afternoon sluggishness. Employees who walked were more relaxed and enthusiastic and less tense in the office than those who stayed put.
Protects you against germs
When your colleagues are sniffling at work, or your kids are battling a bug, it’s time to get stepping. “Moderate exercise, such as walking, improves the immune response,” explains David Nieman, a professor of health and exercise in the US. In a study he conducted, he found that people who walk at least four days a week use half as many sick days as their couch-potato counterparts.
Generally, muscle uses about three times as many kilojoules as fat does to keep your system running. It also powers metabolism – the kilojoule-burning engine that generates the energy to fuel everything your body does, from pumping blood and digesting food to walking and talking.
The other cool thing about maintaining muscle (or even gaining some) is that it’s much more compact and firm than fat.
So even if you aren’t losing as many kilos as you’d like, you’ll be more likely to notice changes in how your clothes fit.
It pumps up creativity!
Stumped on that project or presentation? Walking can help you think outside the box. According to a Stanford University study, people who were asked to come up with answers to a brainteaser gave 60 per cent more responses during a walk than when they remained seated. So the next time you’re grasping for a solution, get moving to open up new perspectives.
Keeps you from late-night snacking
Going for a post-dinner stroll can keep you from snacking in the evening. “It’s a common weight-loss trap,” Sharon Richter says. “Many people eat healthy all day, but then mindlessly munch from dinner until bedtime.” In fact, US researchers found that people who stopped eating after 7pm for two weeks shed about half a kilo, while those who didn’t gained half a kilo. “Getting out for a walk can help signal that it’s time to stop eating,” Sharon says. It can also get you off the couch, which is ground zero for polishing off nibbles that are lurking in the pantry.