Whoopity doo daa. Now give me money.
Seriously though, it really is walking. I received the question from of how one could holistically improve their health, prevent injury, stay pain-free, (it was a great question), and one of the suggestions I made was simple walking.
Preferably uphill when you can.
Walking does a number of things that go vastly unappreciated.
1) Motor Coordination-From a biomechanical/kinesthetic perspective, walking “sets” your relationship with gravity. You don’t remember it, but you spent months and months as a baby and toddler learning to stand, walk, and run. The motor processing centers of your brain spent A LOT of energy developing to be able to do this.
The human body is designed to be upright. And learning HOW to do coordinate this is one of the reasons the human skeleton is muscled how it is. Humans, compared to many other primates, our legs are MASSIVE. We can have huge glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves. Our spine is muscled so that it stays UPRIGHT. Our neck requires muscle to balance. Our arms are evolved to SWING as we walk so we don’t fall over, and so we can navigate uneven terrain.
Ever wonder why babies can have such fat legs? A lot of that is fat, but it also makes them STABLE when they try to stand. Being “bottom heavy” is immensely helpful when you are learning how to stand vertical with gravity.
Walking keeps a large part of your brain from literally decaying. So there is benefit right there
The human heart works very hard to pump blood up and down through the body. Walking keeps this cardiovascular system healthy, flowing, and blocked artery free.
One of the interesting factors of health is that when diets are equalized, the people that exercise still live longer. How so? Because exercising keeps your “systems” of the body in a constant state of turnover and rebuilding. Arterial plaque has been reexamined not only as a consequence of diet, but also of inactivity. The body gets “clogged” when it doesn’t move.
Further, you also need proper bloodflow for all your limbs to function properly. One of the nasty side effects of critical obesity and type 2 diabetes is reduced bloodflow to the extremities, especially the lower body. Meaning very obese people can have their lower leg and feet literally begin to rot and go necrotic from poor bloodflow. Dramatic example, but another reason why walking is important
3) Foot, ankle, knee, hip health-Regularly walking keeps these joints healthy. Maybe not “strong” and reinforced, but healthy enough that they are adapted to gait and have the requisite musculature to do it often. When foot and ankle health start to suffer, mobility up the whole kinetic chain of leg tends to deteriorate.
Walking certainly isn’t a mass builder, but being able to do it your whole life, and especially walk up inclines, that requires a healthy enough level of lean body mass, and by extension requires a health bodyweight also.
4) Aerobic Capacity-I probably should have mentioned this with bloodflow, walking improves your body’s overall usage of oxygen in your blood. That’s pretty important, for hopefully obvious reasons (there is a reason you need to breathe air to not die). Your entire metabolism runs on oxygen. If your body is bad at using oxygen, health suffers massively. This improved efficiency with oxygen contributes to overall cardiovascular and metabolic health. And a low oxygen environment in the body is considered to be a contributor to cancer development. Walking is the absolute easiest way to improve all of this
5) Recovery-Walking is restorative on the nervous system, the muscles, and the joints. It lubricates the joints, gets blood pumping through the muscles, “recharges” the nervous system, all the while lowering stress hormones like cortisol. If you train intensely with weights, taking daily walks can be an easy way to increase your recovery. Walking does not need to be intense to be beneficial.
6) Weight Control-Along with all the above benefits, walking is the easiest form of physical activity you can do. It may not “torch” calories, but as an easy form of exercise, walking daily is the perfect way to maintain bodyweight, metabolic rate, and not gain weight as you age.
So there are the major benefits.
Now go walk, and do not overthink this