H ealth benefits of Walking in France and Walking the Walk
In this section we discuss the health benefits of walking in France. There are no quick fixes for health and fitness, of course. It’s up to you to walk the walk. Yet getting and staying fit and healthy can be great fun and result in a happier you – and enjoying a walking tour in France is the perfect antidote to beach vacations!
Research studies consistently point to the benefits that walking can bring you. These include…
- improved health and the reduced chances of heart disease;
- help with weight loss or keeping it under control;
- increased confidence, stamina and energy levels;
- reduced risk of cancer and other serious diseases, and
- Improved memory, concentration, planning and scheduling.
We aim here to bring to your attention some of the latest wisdom from the world of walking, minus the quick-fix soundbites. Areas covered include…
- The physical and mental benefits of walking;
- Best practice, and;
- The tools of the trade.
H eart disease
A recent study by the Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston found brisk walking produced the most significant reduction in the incidence of heart problems, especially in women, and that the benefits accrue irrespective of life stage.
These findings backed up an earlier women’s study, reported in The New England Journal of Medicine (Aug.1999), that showed that three hours of brisk walking a week can reduce heart disease risk by 35-40% in women.
A recent report by the Department of Health predicted that more than 12 million adults and one million children would be obese by 2010 if no action were taken.
As well as raising obvious issues of diet, a direct link has been established between body weight and cancer
The key lies in reducing sedentary behaviour and increasing activity, and regular walking has to be the simplest and most effective solution.
Walking holidays in general, and walking holidays in France in particular (including healthy food and a glass of wine in the evening) are therefore good for your health!
There is evidence to demonstrate that being inactive can increase your risk of cancer. On the other hand, researchers believe that gentle exercise can also help people during and following cancer treatment. For Physical activity and cancer: the evidence, see:
Walking can thus be seen to play both a preventive and recuperative role. It helps improve the functioning of the body’s immune system.
Fit people have more energy and are less likely to tire during physical activity. Muscles that are continually stimulated have better oxygen transfer and fat metabolism. This allows the heart to beat at a slower rate during exercise. Consequently, one’s body works more efficiently and one can be expected to live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.
Such news can have but one effect – improve your happiness and psychological well-being. Then of course, in the context of walking holidays in France, one mustn’t underestimate the impact that the eating of a healthy Mediterranean diet can have on your fitness!
Y our Brain & Happiness
Walking can be an effective way of strengthening the mind, especially as you get older. A six-month study compared the effects of walking versus toning and stretching exercises. The researchers found the walkers experienced the most positive effects in memory, planning and scheduling.
“Fitness Training and the Brain: From Molecules to Minds,” Arthur F. Kramer, PhD, Stanley J. Colcombe, PhD, Kirk Erickson, PhD, and Paige Scalf, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign. August, 2006.
A 1999 study of people over 60 found that people were mentally sharper after taking up a walking program – viz., walking leads to improved brain functioning.
A review of studies related to activity and depression concluded that being active significantly decreased the likelihood of depression in individuals of all age groups and fitness levels. Healthy individuals have a more positive attitude about work and life.
And let’s not forget endorphins. Even at a slow walking pace, people have been found to register a positive mood swing. For depressives, whose syndrome is related to brain chemistry, by encouraging your brain to release more endorphins, you achieve naturally what many prescription drugs and herbs try to do artificially.
C ombating stress
A study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine (Nov.1999) showed that university students who walked had lower stress levels than either couch potatoes or strenuous exercisers.
Some of the reasoning behind this is you…
• lower your blood pressure;
• observe the wider world, take your mind off your personal worries and put them in perspective;
• put physical and mental distance between you and the stressful environment;
• relax and relieve muscle tension;
• talk, laugh and put the world right, especially if walking with others.
The therapeutic, stress-reducing affects of eating healthily, a feature of the the Mediterranean low-fat diet as experienced on walking holidays in France, should not be underestimated either!
G ood for the Soul
Some consider walking as an equivalent to yoga, as a way of clearing and cleansing the mind – a form of meditation. You can re-connect your mind and body, your soul and your sole, through the movement and rhythm of your body.
You will recall that The Enlightened Traveller’s slogan, which underlies our belief in the health benefits of a walking holiday in France, is: Delighting Mind, Body and
Click to visit The French Hiker’s Guide to Holidaying in the Hexagon and the Best French Self-guided walks, trails, trips, places & themes.