Tanzania is scattered with fossils which demonstrate that our ancestors began walking on two legs at least six million years ago.

Bipedalism is thought to have been a factor in the evolution of our gigantic brains and use of tools. A study from the London School of Economics found that it can be the best deterrent against obesity of all forms of exercise.

Taking a stroll is a powerful and underutilized work-out we can all do for free.

Brilliant Bipeds

Humans are one of the few species on earth that have adopted a bipedal gait. Other animals that walk on two feet include birds, kangaroos, lizards and occasionally primates. The way we walk is unique in that we keep our backs and our knees unbent. We strike the floor first with our heels and our toes are the last part of our body to leave the ground. In fact, the animal which adopts the most similar style of walking to us is a chicken.

An Ancient Form of Exercise

The exercise was first seen as an important aspect of maintaining good physical health after the Neolithic agricultural revolution. Prior to this, the hunter-gatherer lifestyle necessitated fitness in order to be successful in obtaining sustenance. Ancient Indian and Chinese civilizations realized that physical exertion protected people from certain diseases that a sedentary lifestyle seemed to promote.

Since those times, we’ve devised elaborate, competitive and beautiful methods of exercising. Fitness is currently one of the most lucrative industries in the world and the quest for physical optimization is something that most of us strive for. Caught up in a haze of marketing, fancy gyms and social media posts of our friends doing weird and wonderful forms of exercise, it can be too easy to forget about simple yet effective walking.

Free Fitness for Everyone

The world is a beautiful place, and walking gives you the opportunity to soak in the scenery and breathe in the fresh air. That said, you don’t need to travel to the countryside in order to get your fix of walking fitness. Canal towpaths, heritage trails, heaths, and riverside paths can be found to ramble along in towns and cities. For optimum results, a pace of three miles per hour is recommended. Not many people know that walking is even an Olympic sport:

Walking can be a great way for those who aren’t as fit to get back to a more healthy lifestyle. Even just ten minutes per day of fast-paced walking can contribute towards better heart health, burning calories, and building stamina. Once this becomes comfortable and you feel ready, add an extra five minutes onto your daily walk to avoid plateauing. Another incredible benefit of walking is that it can be incorporated into your daily routine. Try these tips for a fitness boost:

  • Use the stairs instead of lifts and/or walk up and down escalators
  • Walk to and from work
  • Ditch the car for shopping trips
  • Take family walks after meals

Improve your physical and mental health

A study by the University of Stamford found that walking can increase creative output by up to 60%. This is thought to be because engaging in activities in which our minds are allowed to wander can promote a mental state highly conducive to concocting innovative ideas. It’s also been theorized that a ten-minute walk can be just as beneficial as a 45-minute workout for relieving symptoms of stress and anxiety.

While seemingly innocuous, walking is underestimated as a highly effective form of exercise. When incorporated with regular resistance training, it can provide the majority of a person’s fitness requirements.