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Recently I set a goal: walk every day for the next 30 days. The motivation behind my goal? I have an upcoming trip to a new-to-me city in the US. My favorite way to get to know a city is to walk it and explore the streets, restaurants and shops.
I know my body. If I begin my explorations with miles of walking, without a warm up first, my legs protest greatly.
Walking every day before the trip conditions my legs…and my body…for the upcoming extra activity. I met my goal…32 days of walking daily so far.
It turns out there are additional benefits of walking every day, beyond getting ready for a adventure! Check out how the body responds, to walking every day for at least 30 days.
Not My First Walking Challenge
This isn’t my first walking challenge. It is, in fact, my third such challenge.
The first, attempted almost four years ago, began as a 30 Day Walking Challenge, in which I walked in a different location every day. I made it to Day 27…and then fell and badly twisted my left knee. Sadly, it took me eight months to fully recover from that fall.
The second 30 day walking challenge began in January of this year. I did great…walking in snow, rain and cold temperatures…until my area experienced a severe cold snap that lasted for days. Those freezing cold days ended my daily walks.
This time, I remained determined to walk daily in spite of hot temperatures, rain and muggy days of high humidity. Of course, like every one else, I DO walk every day in the course of my normal activities. The walking challenge, however, is an intentional “get dressed for a walk and get out the door” practice that I do every single day, no matter what.
I feel ready for my trip. More than that, I feel great.
Here are the benefits of walking every day and the changes that occur in the body.
“Walking is almost an insurance policy for aging well.” Karisa Karmali
Harvard researchers discovered that walking 4, 400 steps a day is enough to significantly lower the risk of death. Researchers tracked a group of women…average age 72 years old…for four years. They found the benefits leveled off at around 7,500 steps.
So, start small if necessary. Walk short distances and then gradually increase the number of steps. Wear a pedometer or smart bracelet to count your steps. Or carry your phone. Mine has a built in health app that is always recording my number of steps per day.
Walking daily is not only good for physical health, it’s beneficial for mental health as well. A daily walking practice helps relieve stress, which can contribute to depression. Plus the body releases the “feel good” hormone endorphins. And those endorphins help us feel more energized and happier for the rest of the day, long after we complete the walk.
Sharpens the Brain
Walking is one of the best ways to reduce the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s. Brisk walking even increases the size of the hippocampus in older adults. The hippocampus is where memories form. Adults also experience greater cognitive function.
Improves Heart Health
Walking daily improves the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. Stronger, healthier heart and lungs reduces the risks of stroke and heart attack while managing hypertension and preventing type 2 diabetes.
Walking also improves circulation throughout the body. Muscles learn to efficiently use the extra oxygen delivered by improved circulation, which in turn increases blood flow even more in the body.
Increases Lung Volume
Walking increases blood flow, which increases the oxygen flow. It helps us breathe deeper and better, eliminating toxins and wastes from the body.
Strengthens Bones and Muscles
After age 30, bones and muscles weaken and begin to break down. Walking daily helps slow the aging process of bones and muscles without stressing joints.
And postmenopausal women who walk every day have higher overall bone density than women who don’t.
Additionally, as we walk muscles tug on the bones, which stimulates the production of bone cells, keeping bones strong and healthy.
As we walk, our body temperature rises and then falls after we finish. This rise and fall of temperature during the day helps us fall asleep faster at night.
Surprisingly, walking daily benefits eye health as well by relieving eye pressure. This helps to fight glaucoma.
Thirty minutes of walking a day lowers the risk of colon cancer. It also improves digestion and helps prevent constipation by regulating bowel movements.
Walking benefits the pancreas by improving glucose tolerance.
Provides Pain Relief
Walking daily reduces pain, stiffness and inflammation in joints. The increased blood flow also improves flexibility in joints and the back.
My Experience after Walking for 30 Days
You might remember that I experienced pain and inflammation in my legs for more than 20 years, due to chronic sciatica. Switching to a plant based lifestyle eliminated the sciatica, along with the pain and inflammation. However, I still struggle with muscle tightness…a result of years of chronic inflammation and perhaps some nerve damage.
Here’s what I notice, after walking every day for 30 days:
- less muscle tightness in my legs, and not just when I’m walking. Overall much less tightness in general, even after standing for long periods of time or a day of greatly increased activity.
- more flexibility in knee joints
- reduced muscle tension throughout my body
- more toned muscles
- weight loss
- greater stamina
- greater endurance
- fewer headaches
- higher energy levels
- improved breathing and lower resting heart rate
- fall asleep quickly
- increased flashes of creativity, deeper gratitude and bursts of big ideas
- greater sense of wellbeing
- high level of satisfaction
- appreciation for my body and how it works
I’m excited to continue walking…up until my trip, while traveling and when I return home.
I’ve met my goal. So if I miss a day occasionally, I won’t beat myself up. However, I so appreciate the benefits that I’m experiencing that I WANT to continue walking daily.
Do you have a daily walking practice? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.