I thought about this very question on a spring Tuesday night while going out for a walk to up my step count for the day.
Didn’t quite hit 10k. The health app on my iPhone tells me I’ve done 7.1k today. But it’s a damn sight better than the 4.8k steps I did the day before.
Needless to say, it’s been tough getting those steps in.
But it got me wondering – what are the real benefits that real people report when walking 10,000 steps or more per day?
Just like I’ve been trying with Apple Cider Vinegar in the morning, I wanted to understand not the benefits we all hear about on health sites such as reducing your blood pressure and helping you lose weight (which greatly depends on so much more than just walking, and ultimately boils down to Calorie Deficit formula). I’m curious about what it makes me feel like.
So between my own experience and what I could find browsing and speaking to people, here’s what we’ve got:
1 – You feel tired, and this helps you sleep
If you’re not able to get any or enough exercise during the week, then you’ll notice yourself getting tired quicker after walking, particularly after walking 10k+ steps which equates to approx 5 miles.
It’s just your body getting used to it, but this increase from muscle fatigue should help you get a sound night’s sleep.
If you’re getting out walking during the day your body is absorbing enough light which contributes to production of Serotonin (the happy chemical). This chemical induces feelings of joy, positively and energy in your body – produced in the sunlight helping maintain vital functions.
Crucially, Serotonin is a precursor to the production of Melatonin, otherwise known as the Sleep Hormone. Melatonin is secreted from your pineal gland on signal of darkness, priming your body to get ready to go to sleep and continue the metabolic functions in a more restful state.
2 – Helps digest food and reduce bloat
Probably a significant benefit of walking after a meal is how it helps you feel light. Walking after eating can help stimulate your stomach and intestines to essentially create a push and get your food digested more quickly.
Plus, walking does help contribute to your total calorie expenditure for the day and week, which ultimately can help you achieve a total weight loss (although – probably not the best way if weight or fat loss is your primary goal).
However be careful. If you’ve just had a big meal, wait 15 minutes to half-an-hour. Walking (especially at a brisk pace) could potentially do more harm than good and cause you to feel unwell.
3 – Clears the mind & helps you focus
If you’re like me, you spend most of the day cooped up in an office or home with little time for fresh air. The most amount of fresh air you’re probably getting is the commute from home to work and back-again, and if you’re lucky – maybe a few minutes at lunch.
Our modern day routines of work – work – work are completely irresponsible to our own health and mental wellbeing.
In fact, it’s counter-productive. We rely on our brains working efficiently to conduct our jobs. Getting fresh air helps you increase oxygen levels in your blood which ultimately gets transported to the brain. A study at a neuroscience unit in Northumbria found increased oxygen helped patients perform 20% better on memory tests than vs patients who had “regular air”.
Plus, the change in scenery can do wonders for breaking out of the routine and being your more creative self. Tuning yourself to nature by walking through a park, or through the city – you don’t know where inspiration will come.
4 – Improves general fitness
By walking, you’re getting the blood moving around your body and down to your legs, carrying with it more oxygen and minerals.
You must have heard the rage about standing desks and how they promote longevity and health.
Well, walking is no different. Ultimately vs spending the day sitting down at home, office or in the train / car – our legs are in particular suffering. As our heart continues to pump blood around our body, gravity helps push it down our legs and to our feet. But working against gravity, our body needs to work hard to get the blood pushed back up from our feet and legs.
For this reason, staying active even by walking those extra steps can help improve the flow of blood back to your heart to pick up oxygen / minerals and re-transport back to the cells in your legs and around your body.
5 – Increases Vitamin D
Vitamin D – the sunlight vitamin.
Once again, you’re probably not getting enough. And even if you do supplement, unless you are 100% regimented, let’s face it – you’re still not getting enough.
Vitamin D has proven benefits of helping support bone development, maintaining the immune system and helping develop your brain and nervous system.
It’s a vitamin we can’t live without, yet so many of us take it for granted (no wonder we have illness on the rise?).
Depending on where in the world you’re living, and the time of year – you should comfortably be getting enough Vitamin D from spending half an hour outside between March through to the end of August. Any time outside of this period and the level acquired diminishes due to less UVB radiation present and absorbed.
There we go. A short explanation of the benefits I’ve personally felt when walking in my daily regime. While everyone has a different day structure and personal requirements, if you can – it’s totally worth adding the additional steps to your day for the overall feeling of wellness walking can give you. It’s right now 23:40 on a weeknight. I’m feeling energised as ever…..