The debate on whether walking is an effective fat burning exercise has been going on for decades, and shows no sign of abating.
But that debate is irrelevant for our purposes. I don’t recommend walking for weight loss, I recommend it for mental health.
Physiologically speaking, walking does a lot of really good things for you. Brisk walking lowers your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, and—possibly—coronary heart disease. Walking improves glycemic control and triglyceride levels. And research shows that walking can even lower mortality risk. (Those who walked the fastest died the least!)
But all of this isn’t even the reason I recommend going for a 15 minute walk as often as possible.
The real reason to do it can be summed up in two words: Stress reduction.
We know that stress is a major promoter of disease. It can bring on attacks of some conditions (herpes, for example, or even an actual heart attack), it makes other conditions worse, and it makes recovery from illness slower. Managing stress should be one of the highest priorities of anyone wanting to live a longer, healthier life. And walking helps to do that.
There’s quite a lot of published research on something called “ecotherapy”, which is the notion that being exposed to greenery has profound psychological benefits. Mix exposure to greenery with a walk and you’ve got a double whammy of benefits. A much cited study from 1984 in the journal Science showed that gazing at a garden can sometimes speed healing from surgery, infections and other ailments.
The kind of walks I’m recommending you take are not really about fitness, (though we’ll be happy to have some fitness benefits as well). They’re about getting in touch with yourself. They’re about having some down time. They’re about slowing down and smelling roses. They’re about finding a moment of serenity and optimism and awe.
Try adding a 15 minute walk to your routine at least three (if not more) days a week. It will do you nothing but good.