Neuroscientist reveals why walking can have an even bigger impact on your wellbeing than you thought

Walking can be a cheap and very accessible way to keep fit, but it turns out it can do a lot more than that.

Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara launched the book In Praise of Walking last year, which explains exactly what happens to our brains while we’re strolling.

Speaking to The Guardian, the expert revealed that as well as keeping us fit, walking has been proven to keep us from developing malign personality changes.

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In Praise of Walking: The new science of how we walk and why it’s good for us

By Shane O'Mara


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Learn more about what happens to our brains while we’re strolling.

“Our sensory systems work at their best when they’re moving about the world,” he said.

He cited a 2018 study that followed participants over 20 years, and found that people who moved the least had the most malign personality changes, scoring lower in the three positive traits - openness, extraversion and agreeableness.

READ MORE: Fabulous walking holidays that won’t feel like exercise

“From the scientific literature, that getting people to engage in physical activity before they engage in a creative act is very powerful. My notion – and we need to test this – is that the activation that occurs across the whole of the brain during problem-solving becomes much greater almost as an accident of walking demanding lots of neural resources”, he added.

Shane also revealed that people thinking that walking is not ‘proper exercise’ is nonsense, and that being more active throughout the day is what we should all be doing.

READ MORE: These beautiful woodland walks are the perfect way to spend an autumn weekend

“This is a terrible mistake,” he said about not thinking walking is a vigorous enough workout. “What we need to be is much more generally active over the course of the day than we are.

“What you see if you get people to wear activity monitors is that because they engage in an hour of really intense activity, they engage in much less activity afterwards.”

For maximum health benefits, Shane recommends a 30 mins or longer walk, at 5km/h or faster, at least four or five times a week. So it might be time to invest in some of the best women's walking shoes for a good, healthy stroll!

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Mariana Cerqueira

Mariana is the editor of My Imperfect Life. She has previously worked for lifestyle titles including GoodtoKnow covering all aspects of women’s lifestyle - from the Royal Family, beauty and fashion to wellness and travel. She was nominated for AOP Digital Journalist of the Year in 2020, and for New Digital Talent of the Year at the 2016 PPA Digital Awards. She’s mildly obsessed with TV (reality TV shows included) and spends far too much time planning her next trip away.