It’s one of the most repeated pieces of health wisdom: “Walking is the best exercise.”
Now thanks to smartphone apps, researchers are documenting the immediate positive effects of walking – not just on heart, lungs and muscles, but also on mood.
A study done at the University of Binghamton in the United Kingdom gathered 56 sedentary office workers and started them on a program of walking 30 minutes during their lunch hour, three times a week.
The main reason for the midday timing was that they could walk regularly as a group and still have time to eat lunch during their one-hour break.
Walkers answered questions about their mood and other details during the mornings and afternoons on a mobile phone app. That immediate response eliminated the problem of recall and the fuzziness of memory that can come with waiting days or weeks to document a mood or feeling.
The program was specifically designed around people who don’t exercise regularly.
A New York Times article on the project reported that, “the volunteers completed a series of baseline health and fitness and mood tests at the outset of the experiment, revealing that they all were out of shape, but otherwise generally healthy physically and emotionally.
Details of the study published in The Scandinavian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport reports the average age was 47.
The findings are that, “Lunchtime walks improved enthusiasm, relaxation, and nervousness at work.”
On the afternoons following a lunchtime stroll, walkers said they felt more enthusiastic and generally more able to cope with whatever came up. At the end of the 10-week experiment, all of the volunteers showed gains in their aerobic fitness and other measures of health.
Although it wasn’t measured, the positive outcomes suggest that productivity at work also improved.
The physical and emotional benefits of walking are documented in other studies.
An article in Tech Times says, “There is a belief that people should push themselves to the point of exhaustion during a workout to reap healthy benefits, but all that is needed is about 7,500 steps each day.”
Those steps, measured with activity trackers like a Fitbit, can be counted walking back-and-forth at home, at the grocery store, or up and down the hall at work. All those steps add up quickly.
A small study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise by researchers at Indiana University found that for every hour that’s spent sitting, five-minutes of walking is enough to reverse harmful effects caused to arteries in the legs.
So whether it’s a five-minute stroll across the room once an hour, or a 30-minute walkabout during lunch break, there are a lot of benefits for mind, body and spirit in the simple and free activity of walking.
Reynolds, Gretchen, “The Benefits of a Lunch Hour Walk,” The New York Times, Jan. 21, 2015.
Thøgersen-Ntoumani, Cecilie, “Changes in work affect in response to lunchtime walking in previously physically inactive employees: A randomized trial,” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, Dec. 25, 2015.
Keating, Lauren, “What is the Best Form of Exercise? Research Points to Walking,” Tech Times, Sept. 29, 2014.