21 reasons walking works
Walk your way to health and happiness
Sydney played host to the world’s largest and most influential conference on walkable communities, Walk21, in 2014. It’s a significant step for the city, and one that had the backing of the Australian Medical Association.
“AMA (NSW) welcomed Walk21 to Sydney and supports initiatives that encourage people to be active. Walking is proven to be one of the best forms of exercise for overall health and well-being for all age groups,” said the association’s Vice President, Dr Saxon Smith.
When it comes to the health of a city and its residents, nothing beats walking. This is a perfect opportunity to explore 21 reasons why walking works.
1. Deals with diabetes
Extensive research links brisk walking to a significant risk reduction for developing type 2 diabetes. A recent British study found that people with a family history of the disease who walked briskly improved insulin sensitivity.
2. Takes strokes in its stride
Walking significantly reduces the risk of stroke and aids stroke recovery. Long-term research shows that both men and women with increased fitness levels who did regular brisk walking had up to 40 per cent lower risk of suffering a stroke than those with the lowest fitness level.
3. Helps beat breast cancer
Women who regularly walk after being diagnosed with breast cancer have a 45 per cent greater chance of survival than those who are inactive, according to Yale university research.
4. Gives anxiety the big A
Twenty minutes of moderate-intensity walking a day can help manage stress and anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream, according to research.
5. It’s an energiser
A brisk walk is one of the best natural energisers around as it boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply, helping you feel more alert. It wakes up stiff joints and eases muscle tension so you feel less sluggish, research shows.
6. Is great for the mind
With 1 in 4 Aussie kids suffering emotional health disorders, walking has a proven positive effect on children suffering anxiety or low self-esteem. And for adults, studies have shown regular brisk walking to be as effective as anti-depressants in cases of mild to moderate depression.
7. Kicks colon cancer
There is convincing evidence that physical activity protects against colon cancer. For cancer prevention, the evidence suggests 60 minutes of brisk walking every day to be most beneficial.
8. Delays dementia
Studies on men and women aged 60 to 80 found that taking a short walk three times a week increased the size of brain regions linked to planning and memory and is the best way to delay dementia, new research shows.
9. Keeps you looking good
Walking is the perfect exercise, says the Harvard Medical School, and helps you look good, too. Walking can help strengthen and shape calves, quads, hamstrings and lift glutes, especially if you add hills. Paying attention to posture while walking can also tone abs and whittle the waist.
10. Helps your heart
Walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, according to a new study out of Berkeley, California. All 3 conditions are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
11. Is cheap and easy
Walking is rated by health care professionals as the most accessible form of physical activity because it’s safe, the least expensive form of exercise and has the lowest dropout rate of any type of exercise.
12. Helps you live longer
For every hour of brisk walking, life expectancy can increase by up to two hours. And it gets easier – walking for as few as 30 minutes a day improves your heart by raising the heart rate and increasing exercise tolerance.
13. Is an ideal kick starter
New international survey findings reveal one in three Australians is obese, making the country one of the world’s fattest nations. Walking is a proven kick start to weight loss.
14. Burns fat
Walking is the easiest and cheapest way to lose weight and is the most recommended exercise for people with obesity or overweight. Brisk walking for 30 minutes will burn 150-200 calories. And you can even divide the time into three 10 minutes periods.
15. Is a budget booster
If more people were physically active for 30 minutes a day, the Australian health care system could save $1.5 billion per year, statistics show.
16. Is a life saver
In 2007/2008, an estimated 16,178 Australians died prematurely due to physical inactivity.
17. Saves money
Walking makes economic sense. Premier’s Council for Active Living has estimated that switching 5 per cent of Sydney metro daily car trips under 1km to walking would save $134m over five years.
18. It’s neighbourly
Walking builds better communities. People that walk regularly interact with their neighbours more and develop greater social capital. Research into the impact of social relationships on mortality found that people had a 50 per cent better survival rate if they had stronger social relationships. The influence of strong social relationships on the risk of death exceeds the influence of smoking and alcohol consumption.
19. Unclogs cities
In dense urban areas, one of the best ways to tackle congestion is to increase levels of walking. The most space efficient way of moving people around is by walking. You can comfortably fit 30 pedestrians in the space taken by one car travelling at around 50kph.
20. It smells good
Reduced vehicle emissions – an average car carrying 1.2 passengers emits 302 grams of C02 equivalent per passenger kilometre. Average C02 equivalent emissions per pedestrian are negligible.
21. Best for getting about
From the magnificent harbour foreshore to the hidden laneway treasures, there’s no better way to explore Sydney than on foot. To celebrate our steps in creating sustainable cities, the City of Sydney and the NSW State Government hosted Walk21, the world’s leading international conference on walking.
Last updated: Monday, 30 June 2014