With scientifically proven benefits, walking has taken on a new level of respect. Don’t underestimate the newly proven benefits of an old task that has been forgotten by many.
Instead of pills, Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara suggests prescribing walking. He suggests that “Patients should be told to go out and do 5,000 steps a day.” Personally, I feel irritable if I do not complete 10.000 daily steps on my phone app. When i hit that target, I get a cascade of green confetti which I really enjoy.
Along with the multiple physical benefits to the heart, lungs, gut, and the overall fitness, getting those legs moving is essential for a healthy brain function. In the book, In Praise of Walking, Shane O’Mara presents the fruits of focused research on the many benefits.. His research suggests that daily walking benefits the cognition of the mind alters the mood, improves memory and problem-solving skills, and could also benefit in areas such as depression and anxiety.
The Duchess of Cambridge has taken interest in shinrin-yoku, an ancient Japanese contemplative walking practice in woodland. Further, GPs in the Shetland Islands have begun to dispense regular walk treatment to their patients. Maybe an unorthodox perspective, but a much-needed return to something with much benefits.
Some call this Ecotherapy, and it’s unique for us in the modern world as it is simple, free, and can be practiced anywhere. Somehow, it seems to put us in line with our evolutionary past. Shane O’Mara is a professor of Experimental Brain Research at Trinity College in Dublin and loves to walk, primarily in London. He has set the aim of walking no less than 12,000 steps daily. His statement is quite surprising: “You don’t need to be somewhere wild and green to walk, and London is one of the best cities for walking in the world.” This is such a distinct perspective than what we commonly hear.
In addition to scenic walks, there is the perception that expensive gear and other investments are necessary to really make this work. He insists that all of this is just simply nonsense. Just put on a pair of comfortable shoes and have the determination to put it on your daily calendar. Remember, it needs to be part of your daily schedule. For me, if it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t get done. So make sure it goes on your calendar.
Walking to work might be a great option for many as they try to weave the walk into their daily routine. If you live too far away, you could try to get off the bus or tube/subway a few stops before your destination. Then, plan to walk the rest of the way. Use your devices to avoid congested and polluted areas for better health.
Pedestrianization is a great trend and shift in our cities. More of this trend will help our cities and our personal health in many ways. One of the challenges to walking in London is related to the heavy focus on traffic flow rather than on the flow of pedestrians. The people on foot ought to get more priority in each of our cities, especially London.
O’Mara says it is scientifically proven that “immobility over long periods, slows brain activity down, but the minute we stand up, we become cognitively mobile.” When we stand and walk, our brain rhythms get an electrical boost and springs into life. As the blood flow through the body increases, our breathing changes thus increasing our alertness.
There is also sufficient indication that walking reduces the production of cortisol, thus increasing creativity. In a particular experiment, he compared creativity among a group of walkers to a group of indoor sitters. They were all asked to suggest as many possible uses for a set of reading glasses. When the results came in, the group of walkers had a better imagination. Walking and the generation of great ideas is not a new phenomenon, but now, we get some scientifically proven research to back it up. As a result, O’Mara always keeps a Dictaphone handy during his walks.
Neuroscience clearly indicates the complexity of walking. “We are only just beginning to understand what happens to the brain in motion,” the author says. Maybe this is an opportunity for humans to return to the old ways of life at least for health reasons.
Just the process of standing, and monitoring our musculature, stabilizing the spine, causing movement in the feet, recognizing our surroundings and moving according to the spatial surroundings are all significant activities performed without giving much thought at all.
As all those processes continue while we walk, add the ability to talk, think, and eat. That says a lot about the expanding human ability that is inherent only for humans. This is what O’Mara said: “In the past, we had to know where places of safety were, how to forage for food on the move and to find shelter without having to think about any of it.”
The socially bonding effects of walking demonstrate that it is not simply a solitary activity. There are sufficient studies that show that those who walk in pairs experience a unique phenomenon where their brain rhythms synchronize, represented through the fact that the walkers fall in step with each other. Those who walk in larger groups seem to separate into smaller groups. You will see this reality as you observe any group of people taking a walk together.
Walking together seems to have another social implication when you walk for a cause. It may be a protest or to promote a cause, the effects are the same. O’Mara says “After all, we walked out of Africa, not alone but in groups, because we evolved to walk together.”
Learning to walk is a significant milestone in the development of children. They see the world differently and experience everything differently. In the autonomy of children and in their brain development, there is a significant shift.
It remains a mystery how babies transition themselves from crawling on all fours to pulling up to a walking position. Ultimately, the children make thousands of steps and experience dozens of falls each day till they perfect the task of walking.
When you add walking to an excellent diet, you multiply the effects of mental and physical stimulation and development.
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