We’ve heard it time and time again, “you need to exercise,” but we may not know where to start. We know that exercise is supposed to be good for us, but what can we do and how can we start? The simple solution to exercise is to just…walk. It’s that simple! this way is faster and more effective. Walking offers significant benefits to your overall health if you stay consistent with it and it’s an activity most everyone can do
Benefits of Walking is a recreational activity with multiple health benefits to offer. Be it a morning or evening walk, this simple physical activity seems to be quite underrated. Whether you are going experiencing stress or anxiety or just want to change your view, going for a walk every day can serve many purposed. Firstly, it can make up for your daily required physical activity, which may have drastically reduced during this lockdown. Secondly, it can help you get closer to nature and clear your mind of the multiple thoughts that cause stress and low mood.
In a society when sedentary/sitting time averages approximately eight hours per day for adults, it’s not only important to be active, but to also reduce the sitting time. So, even if you’re not able to complete moderate intensity walking/activity, simply breaking up prolonged periods of sitting every 30 minutes with light intensity movements/walking is sufficient at keeping blood sugar levels lower throughout the day (which is helpful in staving off diabetes).
Walking can offer numerous health benefits to people of all ages and fitness levels. It may also help prevent certain diseases and even prolong your life.
Walking is free to do and easy to fit into your daily routine. All you need to start walking is a sturdy pair of walking shoes.
Walking always used to be our main form of exercise until more recent transport developments such as the bicycle, car, bus, train and aeroplane become our primary way of moving for both short and long distances in quicker time.
Pilgrimages were built on basic fundamental principles that incorporated long distance walking to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion. Pilgrimages were are all about long distance walking!
Yes, various industrial and technological developments have led to amazing changes in our standard of living, but this came at the cost of humans losing most of their primal physical abilities and strength, such as walking long distances.
For something that requires such little equipment, a walk can do you an awful lot of good. Using just your body plus a good pair of shoes and maybe a pair of headphones, you can improve your physical and mental health.
You might be inclined to believe that the simplicity of walking means that it isn’t as good for you as other forms of more intense exercise. After all, doesn’t strength training and running come with more benefits? Don’t be fooled – a walk really can be one of the best forms of training.
Health Benefits Of Walking
Walking can help you burn calories. Burning calories can help you maintain or lose weight.
Your actual calorie burn will depend on several factors, including:
- walking speed
- distance covered
- terrain (you’ll burn more calories walking uphill than you’ll burn on a flat surface)
- your weight
You can determine your actual calorie burn through a calorie calculator. For a general estimate, you can also refer to this chart.
Walking wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart. Post-menopausal women who walk just one to two miles a day can lower their blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks. Women who walk 30 minutes a day can reduce their risk of stroke by 20%, and by 40% when they stepped up the pace, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
Better Memory and Cognitive Function
Better memory and cognitive functionA 2021 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that when adults 55 or older with mild cognitive impairment were assigned to either stretching and toning exercises or to aerobic training—mostly walking—both groups showed some improvement on cognitive tests. But when compared with the stretching and toning group, the group that walked for fitness improved aerobic fitness more, had decreased stiffness in neck arteries, and showed increased blood flow to the brain in ways that researchers think could provide more cognitive benefits in the long term.
A clinical trial of older adults in Japan published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2015 found that after 12 weeks, men and women in a prescribed daily walking exercise group had significantly greater improvements in memory and executive function (the ability to pay focused attention, to switch among various tasks, and to hold multiple items in working memory) compared with those in a control group who were told just to carry on with their usual daily routine.
And a study of 299 adults, published in the journal Neurology in 2010, found that walking was associated with a greater volume of gray matter in the brain, a measure of brain health.
Walking Will Improve Your Mood
A glass of wine or a square (or three) of dark chocolate can blunt the edge of a rough day—but going for a walk is a zero-calorie strategy that offers the same perk, says Dr. Jampolis.
“Research shows that regular walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you’ll experience a decrease in anger and hostility,” she says, especially when you’re going for a stroll through some greenery or soaking in a bit of sunlight. This can be particularly helpful during the colder months, when seasonal depression spikes.
Finally, when you make your walks social—you stride with, say, your partner, a neighbor, or a good friend—that interaction helps you feel connected, says Dr. Jampolis, which can make you feel happier.
It Can Ease Joint Pain
Walking not only helps keep your joints lubricated and healthy — it also helps you strengthen the surrounding muscles. If your knees don’t love running, then walking can be a win-win!
Walking can be great active recovery
Every action has an opposite reaction—and similarly, every high-intensity interval comes with a recovery period. Walking, instead of sitting down or standing still, keeps your muscles warm and your heart pumping. You can also take a few steps between strength movements to add a low-impact cardio boost, Jayel Lewis, a certified international personal trainer and business coach in Philadelphia, tells SELF.
Walking also works as standalone active recovery sessions on days you’re not doing speedy runs, strength routines, or HIIT classes—and there should be days you’re not doing them. Not only does walking give your body a break, but it actually might speed up your recovery, by boosting blood flow through sore, fatigued muscles.
“You cannot hit it hard seven days a week; that is not sustainable,” health and fitness coach Jackie Dragone, creator of the coaching business The Program, tells SELF. “You need to have days where you do pull back a little bit, where you acknowledge that your body needs rest but you can still keep moving.”
Can Help Lower Your Blood Sugar
Taking a short walk after eating may help lower your blood sugar.
Higher blood glucose levels are a risk factor for diabetes, and the National Walkers’ Health Study also found that walkers had a 12 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
A small study found that taking a 15-minute walk three times a day (after breakfast, lunch, and dinner) improved blood sugar levels more than taking a 45-minute walk at another point during the day.
More research is needed to confirm these findings, though.
Consider making a post-meal walk a regular part of your routine. It can also help you fit exercise in throughout the day.
Improve Your Breath
When walking, your breathing rate increases, causing oxygen to travel faster through bloodstream, helping to eliminate waste products and improve your energy level and the ability to heal.
Longer lifeIn a review of studies published in 2014 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, researchers found that walking for roughly 3 hours a week was associated with an 11 percent reduced risk of premature death compared with those who did little or no activity.
And it’s never too late to reap the benefits of walking: A small 2013 study in the journal Maturitas found that seniors with an average age of 80 who walked just four times a week were much less likely to die over the study’s 10-year follow-up period than those who walked less.
Your Digestion Will Improve by Walking More
If you currently praise coffee for keeping your digestive system going strong, get ready to start thanking your morning walk instead. That’s because a regular walking routine can greatly improve your bowel movements, says Tara Alaichamy, D.P.T., a physical therapist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. “One of the very first things an abdominal surgery patient is required to do is to walk because it utilizes core and abdominal muscles, encouraging movement in our GI system,” she says.
It’s Good for Immune Health
Walking may reduce your risk for developing a cold or the flu.
Walking every day for less than an hour may help you fight off upper respiratory infections (or recover faster if you do catch one). A study of 1,002 adults found that those who walked 30 to 45 minutes daily took fewer sick days — and were sick less often, too.
One study tracked 1,000 adults during flu season. Those who walked at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day had 43 percent fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections overall.
Their symptoms were also lessened if they did get sick. That was compared to adults in the study who were sedentary.
Try to get in a daily walk to experience these benefits. If you live in a cold climate, you can try to walk on a treadmill or around an indoor mall.
You Can Connect With Nature
Humans have an inherent connection to the natural world, and walking in a park or near a body of water can make you feel even more centered. When compared to a jaunt along a busy road, forest walking had significantly greater psychological benefits, according to a Northwestern University study of 38 participants. Another larger study, in the aptly named journal Ecopsychology, found group nature walks were linked to fewer depressive symptoms, less stress, and an overall brighter mood.
If it’s safe, you might even try taking some strides barefoot, Martha Patricia Montes, a certified trainer with Chicago Latin Fitness, tells SELF. “This works muscles in the feet, legs, and hip usually unavailable when wearing shoes,” she says. And that’s not all: “At a deeper level, we connect to earth.” (Of course, as we mentioned above, not all people have access to safe, green conditions to walk. But, in some good news, studies show even watching nature videos has positive effects on your emotions, so cueing up a forest walk on YouTube could help even if you’re stuck indoors.)
Tone Your Legs
Walking may help clear your head and help you think creatively.
A study that included four experiments compared people trying to think of new ideas while they were walking or sitting. Researchers found participants did better while walking, particularly while walking outdoors.
The researchers concluded that walking opens up a free flow of ideas and is a simple way to increase creativity and get physical activity at the same time.
Try to initiate a walking meeting with your colleagues the next time you’re stuck on a problem at work.