Walking makes you strong, resilient and gives you less stress. It is an excellent medicine without side effects, says Shane O 'Mara in his recent book "On foot - how two legs take people further". I wholeheartedly endorse this, although I find his plea to run 15 km every day to be a bit exaggerated and it could also be demotivating. This blog describes why walking is good for you. (If you are unable to walk because you are disabled or for any reason, replace the word "walk" in this article with the word "move").
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1. Walking more important than sports
Walking upright and having our hands free to find food, carry weapons, hunt, protect ourselves and even carry our children is an underestimated 'super miracle', ”says John O'Mara. Our ancestors traveled great distances on the vast plains of Northern Europe; men then walked 20 km every day and women about 12 km. But compared to our ancestors, we walk very little in the modern world. That we sit so much is something of the last 100 years. But our bodies are not made for sitting for long periods of time.
Man is born to move and walk. Although we know that, we often do not. Most people need much more exercise every day than what they have on average per day. We buy it off with one or a few hours in the gym; but these workouts cannot replace daily walking or exercise. Exercising is fine, not as a replacement but as a supplement to the daily exercise.
2. What happens in our brains aIf we walk?
When we walk or are in motion, our brain is also in motion. We are cognitively mobile and then able to place memories, thoughts and feelings in a new context. When we walk, we become more aware of our environment, which increases our sensitivity. A lot of things also happen with the physiology of our brain, such as angiogenesis and neurogenesis:
Movement stimulates the growth and production of new blood vessels in the brain, especially in the areas where the brain grows and continues to expand. There is a busy road network of tens of thousands of blood vessels that transport oxygen and nutrients to 80 -100 trillion brain cells every day. The process by which new blood vessels grow from already existing blood vessels is called angiogenesis and ensures that the brain is supplied with oxygen and nutrients.
We can further expand that road network so that it is ready for use if we really want to take on a challenge. If you want to expand the circuits in your head, it helps to get your feet moving.
Not so long ago, scientists thought that neurons, which are nerve cells, would not be replaced when they die. We thought we had to do our whole life with the neurons we got at birth. The good news is that we create new neurons throughout our lives; this process is called neurogenesis.
A human has an estimated 100 billion nerve cells. The vast majority of it is located in the brain and spinal cord. The circuits of nerve cells in the brain regulate a large number of functions and are, among other things, responsible for our brainpower. New neurons arise mainly in the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain. Walking and exercise stimulate the production of new neurons in the hippocampus. (Read the blog in this regard about neural plasticity).
3. Less stress due to walking?
Walking for 30 minutes every day has a huge effect and ensures that your brain comes into a relaxed state and gets free rein, can “mind walking”, which is like voluntary daydreaming. You become mentally more resilient and are less likely to get upset if things go wrong. you become more relaxed, your blood pressure and heart rate go down and you can think better because you have less stress.
You can also solve your problems better in such a relaxed state. We are then in good mental shape and respond to challenges with healthy stress; that is the good kind of stress that improves resilience and performance. We are explicitly not talking about chronic stress, which is never healthy and weakens the immune system.
But a little stress is good for our resilience. With the work we can safely take occasional spikes or take a sprint when we relax afterwards. If you want to know exactly how stress works in your brain and body, then view this mini lecture by prof. Erik Scherder.
4. Other effects of walking
Other effects of walking 30 minutes a day are: improved brain function, better vision, healthier heart, increased lung capacity, healthier pancreas, improved digestion, faster fat burning and muscle building, stronger joints and legs, stronger backbone and a calm mind.
Sometimes physical complaints are the reason to take more walks. Because the heart and blood vessels also benefit from walking because it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels and improves blood circulation. Walking is therefore also effective in preventing heart disease and strokes. Walking also improves mobility because your bones are strengthened which reduces the risk of fractures. You will move more smoothly because more cartilage is built up.
5. How many steps per day?
The gold standard for many pedometers is 10.000 steps per day. But as shown by this article from Harvard Medical School 10.000 steps have not been scientifically substantiated. Another research on the number of steps in older women indicates above which there were no more benefits; that was below 7.500 steps. It may be 10.000 steps for men, but the 15 km (equivalent to approximately 20.000 steps) as Shane O'mara advises in his book is not necessary and could be demotivating.
"walking for at least 15 minutes every day makes you strong and resilient ”
Finally,: Knowing all this, you may still not be motivated to walk or exercise every day. Then you can consider coaching. In any case, you do not start with too many steps at the same time. Motivating and honing a simple new behavioral pattern like walking usually takes about 6 weeks.
Jocelyn Vlaar (ToHealth!) and Sonja Vlaar (Attune) are cousins and are both very eager to learn. They are constantly looking for new and better ways to deal with stress and to stay mentally and physically healthy and fit. As an orthomolecular therapist, Jocelyn emphasizes the effect of stress and nutrition on the physical body; As an executive coach, Sonja emphasizes the relationship between the brain and high performance at work. also watch our video ”Stress at work? Go Walking for Resilience ”