Walking for longevity is not valued as much as it should. When in fact, walking and staying active every day is key to increasing your longevity (both healthspan and lifespan).
Why? Because the fitness industry relies on fads to continue making money.
Tae Bo, 4 Minute Abs, Thighmaster and the vibrating belt are all fitness fads that over-promised and under-delivered over the years.
Diet plans that are unhealthy and in some cases dangerous appeal to the unread consumer because they promise a quick fix or allow you to not give up your favourite foods.
That doesn’t stop the industry from launching new diets constantly. Long Beach, Atkins, Paleo, Dukan, Alkaline and so on.
In reality, developing a strong and healthy body full of vitality requires time, knowledge, planning, discipline and, of course, effort.
Most people would prefer not to hear that though. They want the panacea, a quick fix, something that requires little time, knowledge, discipline or effort.
This is why most diets fail and why the Western world has increasing obesity rates.
There are a few basic premises to staying fit and healthy which require little equipment and expense. These are:
- Eat nutrient dense foods
- Don’t over eat (most people do)
- Get adequate rest (including sleep and low stress)
- Lift weights
- Move quickly in short occasional bursts (like sprinting)
- Stay active throughout the day
The last point I’m focussing on specifically in this article.
Staying active is important to maintain weight, body mass, burn energy and maintain brain health. It is vital to your overall health and longevity.
In our desk-sitting, screen-based, Uber-calling world people are becoming lazier. Their day mainly consists of sitting down.
Couch to car, car to desk, desk to car, car to couch. Don’t be like these people. If you are already then get out of the habit.
Walking for longevity is one of the most beneficial yet underrated types of exercises you can do.
I walk on average around nine miles a day. Living in a vast yet crowded city like London gives me the opportunity to constantly walk from place to place.
If you walk around the countryside, great. You don’t have to put up with the vehicle and people congestion and your lungs will be taking in cleaner air.
I’m what you might call an urban walker.
I avoid public transport whenever I can (which is most of the time) and I don’t drive my car into central London. If you’ve ever tried driving in central London you’ll understand why.
Walking has numerous benefits to it, including;
Walking helps prevent weight gain
If you walk long distances often you burn a lot of calories with less muscle fatigue than running. Yesterday I walked 9.2 miles and burned around 950 calories through this activity alone.
Walking helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases
Studies have shown that walking is just as good as running to prevent hypertension, type II diabetes and cholesterol. Running does the same but too much of it is bad for the body in the long term. How many well-built long distance runners do you know? Remember we’re talking about walking for longevity.
Walking is good for brain health
Most types of cardiovascular exercise including walking is good for improving cognitive function and mood. In an era where depression and anxiety are spiralling out of control measures to combat these issues should be prioritised. When I go out and walk through London (or anywhere) for a couple of hours I feel a sense of clarity and calm.
Walking allows you to take time out and educate yourself as you exercise
I listen to a tonne of podcasts and there’s no better way to absorb the information in one that by putting in a pair of headphones and heading out for a long walk. There’s something about walking that helps concentrate the mind which allows you to focus and meditate on what’s being said in the podcasts.
Walking makes you feel connected to other humans and your environment
An overlooked benefit of walking is it enhances your connection to everyone and everything around you. Making eye contact with people as you pass by, idle conversations with baristas as they make your coffee and petting someone’s dog in the park, make you feel connected with people (and animals) you don’t know.
When I mention how much I walk to most people they grimace as if it’s some difficult feat of human achievement.
Their reaction is more a reflection on how soft we’ve become as a society. Our ancestors likely walked for many miles a day looking for food and evading other tribes. It’s in our DNA to walk far and often.
Walking really has little impact on the bones, joints and muscles so you can do it often without worrying of injury or fatigue. That’s why walking for longevity is a no-brainer.
If you’re into self-tracking then there are numerous smartphone apps you can use that allows you to track various metrics such as steps, calories and distance walked.
A smartwatch will do the same but using one is overkill just to capture how far you walk. Besides you carry your phone around with you all the time whereas people forget to put on a wearable device.
I use the Moves app on my iPhone. Works perfectly in the background and doesn’t drain the battery.
If you currently don’t walk far start small. Try a couple of miles.
If you work within a few miles of work try walking there. Put in a podcast and just go.
You’ve got to start moving. Use it or lose it.
Staying active is only one part of the puzzle to achieve optimum health, but it’s a very big part.
The rest I’ll cover in later posts.