- A true story about how a bad back turned an old colleague into a successful author
- New research reveals how good walking is for you mind and body
- Just 20 minutes of this per day could lower risk of fatal heart and lung disease
About six years ago, I bumped into an old colleague.
He was a copywriter I worked with back in my early days of publishing health books and newsletters.
After a bout of crippling backache and the birth of his first child, he’d decided to put aside his old partying ways and start walking as a way of gently exercising.
Not just walking to and from the shops instead of using the car… but serious walking.
Every lunchtime he took long, ranging strolls across the Lea Valley, a wild area of London full of canals, marshes, football fields, industrial units and railway lines.
“I lost weight, I started sleeping better and my back pain wasn’t so bad,” he told me.
But that wasn’t the main benefit…
Walking had transformed his life in a way he’d never expected.
By walking every day, he began to waken up his mind.
“Walking changed everything,” he said. “It slowed me down. Helped me process my thoughts. Gave me space to think. Allowed me to look properly at the world closely in a way I’d not done since I was a child. It was like magic.”
Quickly, ideas began to flow as he walked around the weird urban countryside.
“I wrote them all down in a blog,” he told me, “Stories about phantom bear sightings, magic narrowboats, Blitz bombings and the strange stuff I kept finding out on the marshes.”
That blog got noticed by a publisher and became commissioned as a book called Marshland.
That publication led to him doing talks and performances around the country, leading to his second book, based on his walks on the East Sussex coast.
You can read all about his books here – if you’re into spooky landscapes, folklore, and strange tales from history, they’ll be up your street.
And all because he started walking, something that could help you, too.
How to boost your brain through your feet
It’s a benefit not often mentioned when people talk about walking… that it’s as powerful for the brain as it is for your joints, muscles heart and lungs.
In 2017, researchers at New Mexico Highlands University found that as you walk, the impact of your foot on the ground sends pressure waves through your arteries.
This helps increase the supply of blood to your brain, improving alertness and concentration.
According to some scientists like Dr. Robert Vassar. improving blood flow to the brain could be a good therapeutic approach for Alzheimer’s.
Poor blood flow to the brain is also linked to, brain fog, chronic fatigue syndrome, dementia, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
In fact, further back in 2012 a study in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity showed that walking helped ease depression.
Why? They’re not sure yet, but scientists think that walking distracts people from worries, gives them a sense of control and releases your body’s natural happiness hormones.
But it’s not just the physical motion that helps you…
It’s the stimulating environment around you when you go on a walk. Particularly if you have parkland, woodland, lakes, beaches and rivers near you.
Neuroscientist Dr Andrea Michelli runs a project called Urban Mind, which tracks users’ movements through their mobiles, asking them questions throughout.
They not only found a strong link between exposure to nature and wellbeing but that the psychological benefits of a single walk can last for seven hours.
Of course, not everyone is everyone capable of taking long walks – perhaps because of joint pain, injury, illness, long working hours, or other impediments.
The general guideline is that you should do at least 2-3 hours of moderate exercise a week to keep yourself healthy. But that can be difficult to achieve.
However, here’s some good news….
Even a short walk each day will help.
A study last year in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that even a small amount of walking can have significant health benefits.
A small amount of walking, even for less than 2 hours per week, was associated with ‘lower all-cause mortality’. This included:
• 35% lower risk of respiratory disease mortality
• 20% less risk of cardiovascular disease mortality
• 9% less risk of cancer mortality.
An author of the study said:
“Walking has been described as the ‘perfect exercise’ because it is simple, free, convenient, doesn’t require any special equipment or training, and can be done at any age.”
So even if you can spend ten or twenty minutes per day, you can significantly improve your health.
The charity Age UK agrees:
“A daily walk, even if it’s just a 15-minute stroll to the shops, can help to keep you active and, if you walk with friends, it can give your social life a boost, too.”
And you never know what else walking could do for you…
• It could become a hobby where you meet friends or form a walking group.
• It could be an artistic inspiration, leading you to take up music, painting or writing,
• It could allow you time and space to process difficult, sad and depressing thoughts.
• It could become your daily “me” time, away from family, friends and colleagues
• It could stimulate new interests, such as birdwatching, local history or environmental protection.
You just never know until you try.
My old work friend’s ‘bad luck’ with his backache, which had caused him depression and anxiety, led to him taking up walking… which led to a complete life change where he unleashed his imagination and began to fulfil his writing dreams.
What could it do for you?
Time to find out!
And if you DO have pain issues with walking, then I highly recommend these: Foot Cradles.
Just slip them into your shoes and their contoured design supports your full body weight as you walk, helping to soothe your aching feet.
As Ms Lyons from Widnes reports:
“I have suffered with aching knees and also sore ankles. Since trying the Foot Cradles I feel like I have a new pair of legs!”
Until next time, stay healthy and active.