Charity Walks: Good for the Body and the Soul
by Lindsay Tigar
It goes without saying that exercise can benefit both your physical and mental health, but if your daily cardio routine could also help others, you'd totally be down, right? That's where charity walks come in!
These events, which can be competitive or non-competitive, range in size, skill level, and cause. No matter where you live, you've probably seen charity walk opportunities pop up at local parks, schools, or city centers at some point.
While there's a huge list of charitable walks you can choose from, one thing is for sure — this activity, which is easy to find and complete, boasts many heart-healthy benefits (both literally and figuratively). Here's what you need to know about charity walks, and insight into how they can benefit your body and soul.
Walking Is Often Prescribed By Doctors
Combining a constructive activity in support of a charity with a light exercise like walking makes a lot of sense. Doctors, including Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been raving about the importance of walking for decades.
"The next time you have a check-up, don't be surprised if your doctor hands you a prescription to walk," Dr. Frieden notes in a story for Harvard Health. "Yes, this simple activity that you've been doing since you were about a year old is now being touted as the closest thing we have to a wonder drug."
As it turns out, simply taking a walk can do wonders. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urges every adult to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (a.k.a. walking) per week. While any movement is better than none, to meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' requirements, you should walk at a brisk pace, averaging at least 2.5 miles per hour.
Walking Can Improve Your Overall Health and Immune System
There are several obvious benefits to walking — like enhanced cardiovascular health and improved balance — but there are also several less-known reasons to throw on a pair of walking shoes and get moving. For instance, to combat aches and joint pain, many physicians suggest walking five to six miles a week. This can help reduce arthritis troubles or even prevent them in the first place!
Even if you aren't dealing with troublesome aches, pains, or discomfort, walking is a great way to give your immune system a powerful boost, especially during peak cold and flu months. According to a Harvard Medical School study of over 1,000 men and women, those who walk at least 20 minutes a day (at least 5 days a week) tend to take 43 percent fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less.
Walking for a Purpose Could Help You Sleep
Keeping these physical health benefits in mind, it's also important to remember that charity walks are, in fact, for charity. Rather than just walking to clock in your 150 minutes a week, these organized walks can give greater purpose to your exercise — and a recent study from Northwestern Medicine and Rush University Medical Center claims that working toward a higher purpose can help you sleep better at night.
In fact, Save the Children has dubbed the feeling of satisfaction often felt during and after charity events as a "helper's high." This is typically experienced as a boost in mood and self-esteem over a short span of time!
Look for What's Right for Your Lifestyle
So, what's the first step? You have to find the right charity walk for you. Many walks vary in length (anywhere from a 3K to a marathon), so it's important to consider your desired activity level. Some charity walks even offer the option to bike or run, if that's more your thing.
Regardless of whether you opt for a competitive charity walk or one that's more laid-back, it's safe to say that the cause is what's most important! When you plan your next walk, find a cause that you're genuinely passionate about. This can make the whole experience that much sweeter! To find an upcoming charity walk in your area, check your local newspaper for notices or search online for advertisements until you find the right one for you.
And before you sign up, consider what the race is asking of you. Some charity walks will require all participants to raise a certain amount of money or pitch in the rest until they reach their goal, so do what's best for your budget and find a walk that meets your financial (and personal) needs. Happy walking!