Why you should walk and how community development affects your health

It’s always nice to come across reports that resonate with our general stance on promoting better health and movement in our communities! One of the things near and dear to our heart is the Well Batavia Initiative (Sarah is a founder of this initiative!). It’s all about how community ‘set-up’ , (street planning, sidewalks, public transportation, green spaces…) affects moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA ).

MVPA is important for general health for the entire population! This is no small thing. One of the easiest ways to get moderate to vigorous exercise is walking! Let’s talk about a few of the basic benefits.

Cardiovascular Health: We all know by now that The National Heart Association recommends 30 min per day 5 days per week for good cardio health. But did you know….

Brain Health: increased blood flow to the brain is linked to better cognitive function, improved memory, and overall protection against decline. Our brains use about 20% of our body’s total oxygen supply. Fortunately, walking increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain.

Going for a walk, even briefly, can increase the size of your hippocampus — the region of your brain that plays a critical role in forming and storing memories, as well as the associated feelings that go along with those memories.

Feet: Harvard.edu says “Exercising your feet on a regular basis not only improves overall foot health, but may also reduce your risk for injury “ When you walk, the muscles and ligaments in our feet begin to work more efficiently. This then helps keep feet supple and flexible!

Back Pain: Walking increases endorphin production. Endorphins are your body's pain-inhibiting hormones, and exercise walking can spur their release. This means that walking not only helps you maintain your functional capabilities, but it can also reduce your experience of chronic lower back pain. Note: Posture and speed make a difference.  Dr Stu McGill says . “Slow walking puts more of a static load on the spine when compared to brisk walking.”  So finding the optimal gait is important in relieving back pain or rehabilitating. Finding your gait speed is going to be easier when your communities are designed to allow you to not have to look down or watch for speeding traffic!

Other interesting things to note: As mentioned above “how you walk” is important, lead with your chest rather than with your head (straighten up!) Find a speed that feels good and allows you to swing your arms naturally.  Find emotionally stimulating/relaxing areas to walk. We think it would be amazing if these areas were close to home, include green spaces, or were easily accessible by all (public transport, your very own street, etc…). But finding and frequenting such places can benefit mind, body and spirit. More on that later!

Here’s the report if you would like to read it yourself: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29966823?dopt=Abstract

ref: Spine Health, Dr Stu McGill “Back Mechaninc”, Harvard.edu, years of education and experience!