healthy-early-walk-on-the-beach
Healthy Early Morning Walk On The Beach

Jogging is generally accepted as being super good for your health, and it’s earned that reputation. But while some people swear by their daily run, it definitely isn’t for everyone and actually running, as far as exercise goes, really isn’t as necessary as many people think. Actually the Benefits From Walking Daily are as good or better than running. According to medical experts, like an National Institutes oh Health (NIH) study, found that just 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise three times a week reduces anxiety and depression, besides being good for cardiovascular health. It can also improve your mood and self-esteem.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pretty much officially has the same position in a survey, calling for a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity. And, that moderate or vigorous activity could be running or fast walking, or even both. And let’s face it; if you don’t actually like running, it’s harder to make it a regular addition to your weekly routine. Actually, running and walking share basic physical and mental benefits, such as in this National Institutes Of Health (NIH) study on mental health compared.

The only difference is the time element, which means it takes a little more time in walking to equal the same health benefits in less time with running. Another viable option available, especially to reduce belly fat quicker if that’s your goal, is HIIT (high-interval-intensive-training).  HIIT is a workout in which you alternate short bursts of activity at close to your peak heart rate with easier bouts, can help eat away at belly fat.

According to a 2013 analysis of 39 studies published in the journal Sports Medicine, concluded that HIIT reduced what’s called visceral fat by 1.8 percent.  Visceral fat  can trigger a variety of metabolic changes, including unhealthy increased insulin resistance and higher triglyceride levels.  Carol Ewing Garber, Ph.D., a professor of biobehavioral studies at Columbia University Teachers College said that

Reducing visceral fat, even without losing any weight, is great for your health.

Dr. Garber continued,

…..By alternating higher intensity intervals of running with lower-intensity walking intervals you’ll reap the benefits without putting excessive stress on your body.

nature-wellness-benefits-of-social-and-physical-engagement
Nature Wellness Benefits of Social and Physical Engagement

So, as you will see shortly in the research we’re going to cover on harmful health benefits of running, doing a combination of running and walking is better than just running alone.  However, turns out that, in certain contexts walking can actually be better than running, and if that means you’ll make a note to get your steps in more often, all the better.  Science has shown that regular walking every day can be just as impactful on both your mental and physical health as regularly running.

What’s more, as the American Heart Association reported in the Journal Of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology in 2017, briskly walking was just as effective as jogging when it comes to lowering your risk of certain factors that causes heart disease and stroke, and concluded,

Equivalent energy expenditures by moderate walking and vigorous running exercise produced similar risk reductions for hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, and possibly CHD.

So, despite all the hype from avid runners, some experts say that walking can actually be better for you than going for a run. From being better for your joints to being an easier addition to your schedule, there are very good reasons to opt for a walk, rather than a run, and the science behind why it’s effective.

According to the study, walking was just as effective as running in relieving stress, high cholesterol and heart disease and diabetes.  One NIH study on younger elderly men who were advised of the benefits of walking rather then the non-benefits of inactivity were more positive about walking and were more convinced that you can extend your life and starve off disease by simply walking and the more the better. Quoting the study,

….regular walking into daily lives of younger-elderly men may improve longevity and successful aging.

And it was also was determined that the brisker the walk, based on moderate to vigorous, the better the health benefits, as several studies have shown.

However, other studies laud the gentle advantages of a slower pace because you’ll still burn calories and loose weight, if that’s your objective. According to Harvard Medical School survey, 185 pound person walking at a more leisurely pace of 2 miles a hour for 30 minutes would still burn 225 calories an hour. While that number may pale in comparison to the a vigorous walk, it still adds up you can burn enough calories to still lose a pound of body fat in about 15.5 hours of leisurely walking.

healthy-walk-out-in-nature
Healthy Walk Out In Nature

Another study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder, found that leisurely walking for distance combined with low-impact cardiovascular activity appears to be the best formula for obese people seeking to get into shape and stay healthy. The point is, either fast or slow, walking is excellent for your health and to lose weight.

Beyond the parallel perks, are there times when walking is better than running? Yes, absolutely!

Running Places Undue Stress On the Immune System

Walking, unlike running, especially long-distance running, does not seem to tax your immune system. Long-distance runners are more susceptible to developing infections, Dr. Uwe Schutz, from University Hospital of Ulm, Germany, told Reuters Health in a press release by the Radiological Society of North America. Training for or running a marathon not only burns fat but also muscle tissue as well. This places undue burdens on the body’s immune system. Also, Amesh A Adalja, MD, an infectious disease specialists, told Runner’s World,  in 2011 that,

The more intense the run, the higher the cortisol level.  We know it can be high enough to impair the immune system for up to three days following a race or a strenuous workout.

During the strain of a hard run or extended exercise, the body churns out the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses immune function in large amounts, which was also confirmed by this NIH study. The NIH reported in a meta-analyzes of more than 300 empirical articles describing a relationship between psychological stress and parameters of the immune system in human participants.

Stressors, like associated with strenuous running or other “fight-or-flight” situations faced by humans’ evolutionary ancestors elicited potentially beneficial changes in the immune system. However, the more a stressor deviated from those parameters by becoming more chronic, the more components of the immune system were affected in a potentially detrimental way.

Heart Damage Can Occur From Running

healthy-deep-forest-walk
Healthy Deep Forest Walk

Brisk walking reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than running when the energy expenditure of both activities is balanced out, a study has found. Researchers in the above study compared data from two studies of 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers. For the same amount of energy used, walkers experienced greater health benefits than runners. The effects on participants, who were aged 18 to 80, were observed over a period of six years.

Running reduced the risk of heart disease by 4.5% while walking reduced it by 9.3%, very likely due to cardiovascular damage. In the journal Circulation, researchers performed echo-cardiographic measurements of cardiac function in 60 recreational runners before and 20 minutes after the 2004 and 2005 Boston Marathon. What they found was that before the race, none of the runners had elevated serum markers for cardiac stress.

After the race, 36 runners, or 60 percent, had elevated markers of a certain triplet of proteins called troponin. Troponin is a major component of cardiac muscle but elevated levels of subtypes of these proteins can lead to cardiovascular damage. One NIH studied examined the connection between excessive endurance exercise and potential adverse effects to cardiovascular health. Quoting the study:

In some individuals, long-term excessive endurance ET (exercise training) may cause adverse structural and electrical cardiac remodeling, including fibrosis and stiffening of the atria, RV (right ventricular), and large arteries. This theoretically might provide a substrate for atrial and ventricular arrhythmias and increase CV (cardiovascular) risk.

If that’s not enough to discourage a long-distance run, consider that the researchers also discovered that 24 runners, which was 40 percent, developed signs of myocardial necrosis, irreversible damage to heart muscle cells. In a NIH study it was determined that long-distance running can result in cardiac muscle damage.

The researchers also discovered at least 10 studies from 2004 to 2006 alone, that documented increases in myocardial damage. Another study out of Europe published in the “European Heart Journal”, found evidence that elite cross country skiers increased their risk for heart arrhythmias when they skied longer and faster. There is no evidence, however, that brisk walking can destroy heart muscle or cells.

Less Stress On the Body Causing Injury

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Healthy Nature Exercise On A Rocky Cliff

Runners have a much higher risk for exercise-related injury than walkers. Walkers have an approximate 1% to 5% injury risk, while runners have a 20% to 70% chance of injury, as related in this Harvard Health Medical School study.  A NIH study found that typical injuries associated with running include tibia stress syndrome, Achilles tendon injuries, and plantar fasciitis.  According to Natalie Lovitz, PT, DPT, and Clinical Director of Professional Physical Therapy in NY, walking is much easier on your joints than running, so if you are dealing with pain or stiffness, going for a low-impact stroll is almost certainly better for your health.

Running can be hard on joints, as it applies a large amount of pressure on the knees, hips, and ankles.

According to NIH research running produces ground reaction impact forces that are approximately 2.5 times body weight, while the ground reaction impact forces during walking is in the range of 1.2 times body weight. Quite a difference in the stress at impact and a lot less damaging in walking!

If you need to give your joints a little tender loving care, walking is the perfect alternative,

said Lovitz.

Lovitz also said while walking is certainly less stressful on the body’s musculoskeletal system than running, it still causes your brain to release mood-boosting endorphins, one of the biggest benefits of exercise.  Although still controversial, long-distance running may also damage cartilage, one specific study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, using an MRI, showed biochemical changes particularly in the knee cartilage, suggesting evidence of a higher risk of degeneration, which could lead to osteoarithritis, or even micro-fractures in the bones, or cartilage damage.  Walking works your bones and muscles against gravity, inhibiting bone loss and prolonged maladies.

Walking and the Benefits Of Experiencing Nature

Walking gives you the freedom to explore and spend time in nature, without having to look down at the ground so you don’t trip over a branch or stumble over a rock, risking a serious fall and injury.

healthy-walking-forest-trail-with-light-pack
Healthy Walking Forest Trail With Light Pack

If you’ve been wanting to check out a national park or go for a hike, walking is the best route.  Instead of breezing through an area, walking allows you to stop and check out all of nature’s breathtaking views,

explains Lovitz.

According to a study published in the National Academy Of Science, have shown walking in nature reduces ruminations and have a positive impact on your mental health, making you feel happier, more attentive, and less stressed. A 2017 Scientific Reports study considered the mental health benefits of living near forests for city dwellers, especially those coping with stress.

Those participants involved in the study who lived within half a mile of a forest were more likely to show signs of a healthy amygdala, the part of the brain associated with, among other things, regulating stress. If you’re tired of your regular running route, consider hitting the hiking trails or immerse yourself in forest, for a mindful walk so you can glean both the benefits of exercise and relaxing nature.  Walking stimulates the brain and enhances your attention and working memory when you do a nature walk.

Risk A Heat Stroke

According to this Mayo Clinic article, in the summer, runners need to be careful not to overdo it. Running in hot weather can lead to multi-organ dysfunction. Although walking in hot weather can also lead to heat stroke, there is probably less overall stress and a chance of developing organ failure when walking versus running.  Hot weather puts added stress on the body.

Adding exercise to the mix makes it even harder for the body to function properly.  To cool itself, the body sends extra blood circulating through the skin. This takes blood away from the muscles, which in turn increases heart rate. This trifecta of events leaves the body vulnerable to heat illness such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and ultimately heat stroke, per this Mayo Clinic study.

awesome-healthy-nature-wellness-positive-lifestyle-for-life
Awesome Healthy Nature Wellness Positive Lifestyle For Life

When experiencing heat stroke, body temperatures can rise in excess of 104 degrees. The body will be hot to the touch, but perspiration will be non-existent, causing weakness and even nausea. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to organ failure such as heart or pulmonary edema, seizures, blood clotting, brain damage, and even death according to John Hopkins research.

Take It A Notch Up To Hiking

We know this article is about the benefits of walking, particularly if you’re doing it out in nature somewhere, then you might as well be hiking.  Not only does hiking through the trails have the same health benefits as walking daily, such as decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thus reducing the danger of heart disease, diabetes and stroke for those at high-risk, it also allows you to be in close contact with nature, increases your fitness, and tones your whole body, besides being good for your mood. A Harvard Medical School study confirms that hiking not only raises your heart rate, but also your mood.

For example, hiking downhill is two times more effective at removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance, according to a NIH clinical trails review of a Australian study.  Only uphill hiking reduced triglyceride level, which are an independent risk factor for heart problems. Both uphill and downhill reduced bad (LDL) cholesterol. Uneven terrain hiking was not only more energy-demanding and terms of burning calories, but also caused a 28 percent to 62 percent positive increase in hip and knee work, according to a University of Michigan study reviewed by the NIH. Let’s take a look at these added benefits individually:

Connecting To Nature

Being out in nature is one of the optional Benefits From Walking Daily, because you’re away from the chaos of our daily lives and technology, which can allow people to connect with themselves and nature in a way that brings about peace and a sense of well-being. Walking in nature can be a natural mental health prescription.  It should come as no surprise that walking among trees has health benefits. Shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” is a Japanese practice that celebrates the health-improving qualities of the forest. Research shows that using hiking as an additional therapy can help people with severe depression feel less hopeless, depressed and suicidal. It may even inspire those suffering from it to lead a more active lifestyle.

healthy-hikinh-with-best-friend
Healthy Hiking With Best Friend

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Edge Hill University in England evaluated 1,991 participants in England’s Walking for Health program, for a total of more than 70,000 participants, and found that nature walks were associated with significantly less depression in addition to mitigating the negative effects of stressful life events and perceived stress. Yet, another 2015 study published in Landscape and Urban Planning found that residents of London who live near trees take fewer antidepressants. Yet, another study showed that mountain hiking compared to similar exercise indoors indicate,

that a three-hour PA intervention (mountain hiking) elicits higher positive and lower negative affective responses compared to a sedentary control situation and to an indoor PA condition.

And, besides, according to studies like Scientific America study you just never know what you’ll run in to hiking in nature, that brings a wonderful sense of awe or feeling of “thunderstruck” and reducing inflammation, which is also very healthy, like this herd of elk (1)!

Overall Fitness Improves

Just one hour of trekking can burn well over 500 calories, depending on the level of incline, decline, and back to incline and the weight of the pack you’re carrying (see terrain studies above). Hiking trails are often softer on joints than asphalt or concrete, so it’s easier on your ankles and knees compared to running. If you head for the hills, weight loss results are even better. Not only are you burning serious calories, but altitude itself has also proven to be a weight-loss ally according to a Scientific study, which found that “thin-air” at higher altitudes has a direct positive relationship with weight loss.

Southern Methodist University conducted a study and developed a simple method to determines rate at which we burn calories, which can vary tenfold, depending on whether it’s walking up, down, flat, the speed, and the weight of backpack load, such as what foot soldiers would do. The method, using the 3 variables, called the Army-Funded Method, was devised a much more accurate system for arriving a calorie-loss.

Whole Body Benefits

healthy-roughing-it-backpacking
Healthy Roughing It Backpacking

Regular walking can get you in better shape, but, as the S.M.U. study referenced above showed, taking on sharp inclines, using trekking poles to propel you forward, and clambering over rocks gives your body an all-over workout. Physiologically, you’re going to work your whole body, especially the lower body, namely the quads, glutes and hamstrings.

If you’re carrying a weighted-pack, which you should be, so you’ll have fresh water and healthy snacks, and may be even your spotting scope attached to your pack.  The extra weight is going to challenge the strength and endurance of your upper and lower body as well, the same amount as running, and you’ll burn just as many calories as running, as well, according to an NIH study. The study compared weighted-walking (ankle and wrist weights) to intense running.

Healing Power of Hiking

Some research suggests that the physical benefits of hiking extend far beyond cardiovascular health, and may even help cancer patients recover. A Department of Hygiene and Public Health, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, Japan study reviewed by the NIH, explored the effect of forest bathing and absorbing plant “phytoncides” on human immune function, investigated natural killer (NK) activity on cancer cells increased approximately 50 percent. Another NIH study investigated effect of phytoncides from trees on human natural killer cell function.

A study, of 12 women with breast cancer and 6 men with prostate cancer, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, found that long distance hiking trips may improve the anti-oxidative capacity, or reduce oxidative stress, which helps fight off cancer in the blood of oncological patients. Another study showed that breast cancer survivors who exercised regularly, many in the form of hiking, believed that physical activity complemented their recovery from cancer treatment.

Another NIH study concluded that walking or hiking uphill and downhill showed promise in treating pre-diabetic men. Quoting the study,

Thus, depending on the fitness level and individual preferences both types of exercise may be useful for the prevention of type 2 diabetes and disorders in lipid metabolism.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, hiking is a great form of exercise for people with arthritis, because it’s a great aerobic exercise. It improves your heart and lung health, helps control weight, strengthens muscles, and builds denser bones. What’s more, a regular walking routine compresses and releases the cartilage in your knees, helping circulate fluid that brings oxygen and nourishes your joints and removes inflammatory waste products, reducing the risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis or other forms of arthritis.

healthy-incredible-view-of-spring-mountain-scene
Healthy Incredible View Of Spring Mountain Scene

Creativity Improves

Research shows that spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent. A University of California Berkeley Study found that nature can not only make you kinder and happier, but also more creative. Researchers from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education also found that walking gets the creative juices flowing far more than sitting. The authors of the study also point out that the results may have as much to do with unplugging from technology as they do spending time outside.

Another Nature of Americans National Report of 12,000 Americans adults, children, and parents found the increasing use of computers, smart phones, televisions, and other technology, coupled with a growing movement from rural areas, is pulling many Americans away from the natural world and negatively effecting their health both physically and mentally. The study concluded:

The core premise of these recommendations is that connection to nature is not a dispensable amenity, but rather is essential to the health, economic prosperity, quality of life, and social well-being of all Americans.

You always have to be alert and prepared and up for the challenge when you’re dealing with nature because it’s full of surprises and it keeps you active and engaged because you never really know what’s round the corner. And having been there and done that many times, boy, is that the truth!

As an example, once hiking up an elk trail at probably 10,00 feet elevation in the Rookies with a good buddy, who was in front of me on the trail, turned around and motioned me to look to my right, and not more than 5 feet from me and may be 4 feet below me on a small flat area was at least a 1,000 pound young “cow” (female) elk standing there just looking at me and I hadn’t even noticed her. It was incredible! We stopped and watched her as she continued to watch us until she casually decided to move on and disappeared in the brush below.

Better Social Connection

Hikers always recommend using the buddy system. A regular weekend meet-up or a planned long-distance trek can help you forge bonds while you shape up. Plus, interaction with the larger hiking community encourages you to engage with your workout as a lifestyle, rather than a chore, which will make you more likely to stick with it for the long haul, because you really enjoy it.  Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway, doing it consistently?

But, there’s actually more to it then just having a buddy system which is vitally important as far as safety precautions go. According to an NIH study subjective wellbeing (SWB) is positively associated with both social connectedness and contact with natural environments, which results confirmed the importance of nature exposure for wellbeing in itself, and highlighted its potential role in offering socially isolated individuals a way of satisfying the need to feel connected..

Set your Own Course

healthy-very-happy-person
healthy very happy person

With hiking, you can chart your own path. Is it a slowly inclining scenic trail or a steep trek up a mountain?  Is it in California, or Arkansas, or Michigan?  And you set your own time, your own pace and distance, as well. Whether you decide on an afternoon hike, a weekend in the woods, or a long distance experience, you aren’t listening to a bossy fitness trainer tell you to work harder because you don’t need him.

To us, setting your own course on where you choose to hike (backpack) has always been what was so appealing to us, and still is.  We tried running in our earlier years in life, and just couldn’t stay with it because we were always bored and didn’t enjoy it.  Our group started hiking back then and we have not ever desired to do anything else.  We can’t tell you the countless enjoyable hours we’ve spent over the years doing just that….hiking and backpacking, across this entire land we call America.

From the deep forest and rocky coast of Maine, to hiking an elk trail not even 3 feet wide, winding up the sheer side of a mountain above 12,000 feet elevation, in the Rocky Mountains, to the depths of Grand Canyon to Havaso Falls (2), to the magnificent Redwood forest of Oregon, and so many other places in between. To say we thoroughly enjoyed it, would be an understatement!  We actually still have our first and only North Face backpacks we both ever owned, our Camp 7 down sleeping bags, and our “antique” Vasque leather hiking boots, all really still in pretty good shape.

Of course the design and materials of hiking boots have changed a lot in the last 50 years since we first bought our Vasque boots, but here is some modern-day Vasque boots (2).  At 72, and 65, we still enjoy hiking and still do it every chance we get, although it’s become a little harder now because most of our friends our age, aren’t physically able to do it as much anymore.  So, we have to rely on doing it with our son when he can arrange it, or hookup with a local hiking club, and that’s hit and miss, but it’s still worth the effort.

Two Other Healthy Activities

fresh-well-balanced-nutritious foods
Fresh Well-Balanced Nutritious Foods

Along with walking, hiking, and backpacking, the 2 other basic activities for maintaining your overall health and well being, are getting a minimum of 8 hours of restful sleep each night, and eating the proper fresh, organic, nutrient-dense foods, covered in these reviews which provide full documentation of the health benefits and links to purchase these incredible healthy foods: “Healthy Nutrition Foods-The Ones You Never Thought Of” (A), consisting of whole-grains and whole fibers, organic herbs and spices, natural fermented foods, and antioxidant drinks; A list Of healthy Foods To Eat” (A), consisting of lean organic grass-fed and free-range meats and poultry, dairy, and eggs; cold-water fish and seafood (A); consisting of fresh organic fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, and seeds (A); and supplementing with the all-natural certified organic, non’GMO, whole-food Adaptogen Peruvian Maca (A).

There’s no question healthy, restorative sleep can provide sufficient energy for walking, hiking and backpacking routinely. However, the reverse is also true. If you are experiencing trouble getting restful restorative sleep by getting to much artificial light, spending time in nature participating in physical activity, will help restore your circadian (natural body clock) rhythm. This will happen just by being in natural light and the sun during the day, then darkness at night, and the results will be healthy, restful, restorative, and natural sleep.

Now that you know what the Benefits From Walking Daily are, do you have this new-found desire to buy a backpack and hiking boots?  Let’s hope so.  What are your questions?  Your comments are welcomed also.

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.

—Robert Louis Stevenson

(1) Hunting Bigfoot Video
(2) Jodie Dewberry Video
(A) Links to reviews to get more information on these incredibly healthy nutrient-dense foods and also purchase them.

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