Did you know different types of walking elicit different health benefits? Research shows that not all walking is created equal. The pace of walking (slow or brisk), number of steps, and where you walk can affect your outcomes.
There is an abundance of research on the health benefits of walking, which you probably already know, so no sense in repeating the same things you can find everywhere on the internet, but we will focus on some of the not so obvious, or more unique benefits of different types of walking.
We’ve broken down the research to show different types of walking can have surprising benefits on the following categories:
- All-Cause Mortality
- Creative Thinking
- Appetite Suppressant
- Personality Changes
For the ultimate benefits, we all know about 10,000 steps a day is the goal to strive for…but have we ever considered if step intensity matters?
This study suggests that step intensity, or how quickly you walk, does matter when it comes to reducing dementia risk.
The optimal cadence is 112 steps per minute.
112 steps per minute in a 30 minute session had the greatest impact on reducing dementia incidence 62% vs 50% risk reduction for 9800 daily steps.
While the findings suggest that a dose of 10,000 steps per day may be optimally associated with a lower risk of dementia, steps performed at a higher intensity resulted in stronger associations.
So let’s continue to get those steps in, but try out a 30 minute session with picking up the pace.
Do we really need 10,000 steps a day?
This study shows benefits to all-cause mortality in older women reached at just 7500 steps a day.
A goal of 10,000 steps a day is commonly believed by the public to be necessary for health, but this study monitored around 16,000 women with an average age of 72 to examine associations of number of steps per day and stepping intensity with all-cause mortality (death due to any cause).
More steps per day accrued were associated with steady declines in mortality rates up to approximately 7500 steps a day, beyond which rates leveled.
These findings may serve as encouragement to the individuals for whom 10,000 steps a day pose an unattainable goal. So on those days where you just can’t get 10,000, don’t despair, even reaching 7500 steps per day has beneficial health outcomes.
Four experiments on different types of walking demonstrate that walking boosts creative ideation in real time and shortly after.
In Experiment 1, while seated and then when walking on a treadmill, adults completed Guilford’s alternate uses (GAU) test.
Walking increased 81% of participants’ creativity on the GAU.
What is Guilford’s alternate uses test?
The GAU is used to measure divergent thinking.
Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions where unexpected connections are drawn.
The intent of the GAU is to have the test taker think creatively. It is generally used with a time constraint and consists of someone thinking of one object to start. Within that time constraint, that person thinks of as many objects as they can that are comparable to the original object chosen.
The AUT measures a certain level of divergent thinking; exploring multiple answers using creativity.
In Experiment 2, participants completed the GAU when seated and then walking, when walking and then seated, or when seated twice.
Again, walking led to higher GAU scores.
Moreover, when seated after walking, participants exhibited a residual creative boost.
Experiment 3 generalized the prior experiment’s effects to outdoor walking. Meaning, the same effects were realized when walking outdoor.
Experiment 4 tested the effect of walking on creative analogy generation. Participants sat inside, walked on a treadmill inside, walked outside, or were rolled outside in a wheelchair.
Walking outside produced the most novel and highest quality analogies.
So if you ever need a boost of creativity—kill two birds with one stone and go for a walk! Walking opens your brain to a free flow of ideas and increases physical activity.
One thing the authors note, the effect is specifically achieved from walking, it is not simply due to moving.
Here’s a type of walking that flips a common ritual on its head.
The common ritual of taking a walk to burn off some calories can be flipped to walking before eating to curb your appetite.
Individuals who are physically active appear to have an improved appetite sensitivity, which may lead to feeling fuller longer. As well as using food more effectively.
Physical inactivity is related to long-term personality change (not in a good way).
Physical inactivity showed a decline in the following factors of personality: conscientiousness openness, extraversion, and agreeableness.
The authors found:
“A physically inactive lifestyle may weaken personality stability and lead to non-desirable personality changes through its link with disease burden, functional limitations, cognitive impairment, and depressive symptoms. Indeed, higher disease burden, biological dysfunction, depressive symptoms, and worsening cognition are related to higher neuroticism, and lower extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness over time.”
Waling is one of the simplest things we can do to affect positive changes in our life. Different types of walking can help with improved mood, appetite suppression, creative thinking, and cognitive protection. It is never too late to get started, even walking for 7500 steps a day will be beneficial for reversing any long-term effects sustained from inactivity.