Daily 30-minute walk can refresh the brain and body

Take 30 minutes out of your day to walk. And yes, walking around a golf course counts.

So here’s something that you can do for yourself and be part of your community. For one day, just get out of the office for 30 minutes and go for a walk at lunch. You still have time to grab a bite, but this means no lingering at the coffee machine for that last drop of java.

I’ll bet you feel good in this wonderful spring weather, and one day of walking can turn into two, and then three days.

The sixth annual National Walk @ Lunch Day is Wednesday, and there’s a celebration in Marion Square in downtown Charleston thanks to Blue Cross Blue Shield.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the company is sponsoring a walking course, health screenings and information, chair massages, giveaways, music and more. Participants are encouraged to walk for 30 minutes and make a commitment to exercise regularly.

They sweeten the idea with free tote bags and T-shirts while supplies last. Those who RSVP on the national walk Events page at Facebook.com also will receive an aluminum water bottle at check-in.

Even if you don’t have time to go to Marion Square, there are some really good reasons to participate in the National Walk @ Lunch Day, wherever you are. Walking requires no special equipment or skills.

Here are 10 benefits to getting up and out:

1. You get out of the office and away from the phones for 30 minutes. Think about the last time you did something for yourself on your lunch break, something that was peaceful and low stress. Walking just 30 minutes a day has been shown by studies in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine to lower stress, even if you don’t walk for exercise. And leave your cellphone on your desk.

2. You get out of your chair. Sitting for long periods of time is not good for your health. Studies show that people who sit all day are twice as likely to develop heart disease as those who are more active.

3. Walk with a friend. It’s amazing how much faster you walk when you are discussing a topic with a friend or colleague. Good jokes and laughter make worries float away, and you’ll feel refreshed when you settle back into the afternoon’s work.

4. Walk a new route. New sights and sounds will make the 30 minutes seem longer and you might find a small shop or historic plaque that makes the walk more interesting.

5. Walking lowers your blood pressure and improves heart health. It’s one of the easiest ways to control your weight. Just remember that you have to walk a mile to burn 100 calories, so don’t eat a candy bar for dessert.

6. It takes about 18 minutes to walk a mile, so you can cover some ground. If you want to measure how far you are going to walk, drive the route in your car. This allows you to avoid busy streets you might encounter, and plan a peaceful walk.

7. Use the time to explore a nearby park. No one says you have to walk on the sidewalk. Find a peaceful walk beside a pond or through some woods. You will notice plants and critters as spring becomes summer.

8. Even if you are genetically prone to obesity, walking an hour a day can cut that influence in half. A recent study showed that 32 genes are linked to obesity, and the less activity, the more a person was likely to feel the influence of those genes.

If you are like many Americans, you are going to be busy when you get home from work, and then plop in front of a television for the evening. That lunch walk will help you do that without guilt.

9. Walking is good for your brain. Walking away from that vexing problem and taking a break allows your brain to come back refreshed and often with a solution. Your brain has internalized the problem and has time to synthesize answers.

10. It’s just plain fun to get out and see the day instead of the walls of your office.

Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557 or sharvin@postandcourier.com.