5 Benefits of walking: Enhance your fitness and wellbeing

With benefits to your physical and mental health, there are loads of reasons why walking is good for you. If you are looking to increase your activity levels, walking is an easy way to get more active and become happier and healthier, whatever your age or ability. Not to mention, it’s free and easy to get started – all you need is a comfortable pair of shoes!

Why walking is good for you

Because walking releases endorphins, those brain chemicals that make us feel good, even heading outside for a little stroll can help banish anxiety, reduce stress and shake off a bad mood. Walks also boost oxygen flow through your body and stimulate your heart, which can awaken your senses and leave you feeling more energised than your normal go-to coffee.

Walking is also great for your body. Just like any exercise, walking is good for you because it burns calories and improves your fitness. How much you burn depends on how fast and far you walk, but even a little stroll helps. Not only that but walking can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure and strokes as well as diabetes, high cholesterol and more.

If you’re looking to shape up, all you need to do is step up. That’s right, you don’t have to do squats and lunges to build up strength in your legs – walking up hills or steps can help make your legs toned and strong. When you’re ready to take things up a notch, you could try power walking too or perhaps adding some wrist weights to increase the challenge of your walk.

Improve Your Health by Walking

Walking can improve both your physical and mental health; it’s the ideal starting point for those new to their fitness journey. Anyone can get walking without expensive equipment – all you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and a good pair of socks! 

Walking is a low impact exercise, which makes it easily accessible for all – an ideal starting exercise for those who may be elderly, overweight, or those who may not have exercised for a long time.

You only need to walk for around 30 minutes per day to see some impressive health benefits.

What Are the Health Benefits of Walking? 

There are many health benefits to walking, and it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor before starting any exercise regime. 

Improves Your Cardiovascular Fitness

If you’re walking at a pace of 3 miles an hour, this is considered moderate exercise. As long as your heart beats faster than it does when you’re sitting or resting, it’s working harder to pump the blood around the body, which helps with point number two. 

Walking Burns Calories

Thirty minutes of walking is an easy way to burn up to 150 calories! This number can vary based on your height and weight, plus other factors, but half an hour of walking each day soon adds up to over 1000 calories a week! 

Helps Improve Your Mood And Lower Stress Levels

Getting fresh air and getting a clear head is a great way to reduce stress. Walking in silence or with a podcast/audiobook can give you the time to take a breath and move away from the things causing you stress. 

Better Sleep Quality

It has been proven that regular physical activity can improve both the quality and duration of sleep. Our sleep is important for overall health, but studies linked to weight loss and lack of sleep advise that if we do not get enough sleep a night, our motivation to exercise the next day is massively reduced. 

Reduced risk of heart disease

Several studies show walking vs remaining sedentary can reduce the risk of heart disease. It is accessible to large parts of society. It comes with little chance of injury, meaning that more people are likely to take up walking, and doctors have seen reductions in CVD risk in patients who walk regularly. 

8 Walking Tips: How To Get Started

Walking is an exercise almost all of us can do. It’s accessible for those at the start of their fitness journey, but it’s also enjoyable for anyone wanting to stay active and get fresh air in a low-impact way. Here are some of our top tips to get the most out of your walk.

  • Don’t skip a warm-up: Walking may be a low-impact exercise but it’s still easy to pick up injuries, such as calf, hip and knee pain, along the way, especially if you want to walk fast or walk for long distances. Stretch your legs, ankles and hips, and start out slow before picking up the pace.
  • Use your arms to help you walk faster: A simple way to build up walking speeds is to remember the other limbs you have! Swinging your arms naturally encourages your legs to move in sync and so you can pick up a faster pace. Try to keep your arms at 90 degrees if you want to perfect this trick. Just taking your hands out your pockets and allowing your arms to swing naturally is a great way to get your whole body moving. Looking for more ways to increase your walking speed? Check out more tips here.
  • Invest in some good walking shoes: Walking is indeed an exercise accessible to everyone and anyone, whatever their quality of footwear. But if walking is something you do often, or want to do more often, it’s worthwhile thinking about investing in a pair of sturdy and supportive walking shoes or trainers.
  • Keep your back straight: Maintaining good posture is important to ensure your walking sessions won’t leave you aching or uncomfortable. Try to keep your tummy flat and engaged, and keep your head up whilst you are walking. This will stop you from slouching.
  • Start small and build it up: Begin by walking to the end of a certain street or a couple of hundred metres down the road. Do this for a few days before adding on another 200 metres. Continue as you see fit but remember that walking can still be tiring, so take your time! 
  • Safety First: Tell people where you’re going, share GPS, and stick to main roads or well-lit routes at night. Torches are necessary on country paths if you’re walking at night. 
  • Make it a social occasion: Grab some friends, get your shoes on and get out there! Having someone with you will also take your mind off the distance and time. 
  • Get a tracking app or pedometer: Keeping track of your activities and seeing the miles increase will help you see your overall improvement! 

Is Walking Sufficient Exercise?

How much is enough? It can be hard to judge how much exercise you need. There are lots of different articles across the internet that advocate different approaches to exercise and offer up conflicting answers to this question.

The simple answer is yes. According to the NHS guidelines for adults, you need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Whilst you could break that time into different types of exercise, you could also achieve that goal by walking alone.

Walking falls into the moderate intensity bracket along with other, low-impact forms of exercise such as aqua-aerobics and yoga. By contrast, vigorous exercise includes playing contact sports such as rugby or football, running and high-intensity interval training (often referred to as HIIT).

A moderate amount of exercise has a whole host of benefits that can stave off illness and improve your health. Walking is a good, low-impact way to improve and maintain your cardiovascular health and comes with a number of health benefits which include reducing blood pressure, increasing endurance and most importantly, improving mental health.

Getting outside in the fresh air is also great for mental health as it helps you get some much-needed headspace. Spending time in nature is also a well-known anxiety reliever as it helps boost serotonin levels, the chemical responsible for your mood. On a more practical level, spending time walking outdoors means that you can take a break from your work and everyday responsibilities which can help refresh your perspective.

There are lots of ways to mix it up when it comes to walking which include walking on different terrain, changing your speed, walking with a friend or training buddy and even taking on a distance or elevation challenge.

The Benefit of Variation

However, there are a host of reasons why you may want to mix it up and engage in different types of exercise during your week. Repeating the same exercise day-in-day-out can lead to fatigue and even injury without careful planning. Giving yourself a variety of different types of exercise, targeting different muscle groups at varying intensities throughout the week is arguably a more effective and beneficial way to train.

This could mean heading to the pool to go for a swim or doing yoga, or even some high-intensity interval training. The main thing to think about if you are going to choose a supplementary sport or exercise is to make sure that it works for you. If you find that you are struggling to power up the hills whilst walking, heading to the gym to work on your hip mobility and quad strength would be a great idea, if you want to build a more efficient engine, doing some high-intensity training is likely to give you that extra edge.

Taxing your body through a number of different types of exercise can reap greater rewards if done correctly compared with just one type of exercise, whether that is walking, running or swimming. Doing some supplementary strength training can help stave off injuries and improve muscle tone, further increasing the effects of cardio workouts.

A carefully designed strength programme may also help you if you are coming back from injury. However, if you are injured or recently recovered, we would always recommend checking that your rehab programme is the right one for you with a personal trainer!

Yoga is another brilliant way to supplement walking, it not only helps loosen off tight muscles and counter any muscular imbalances, but it also helps improve balance and coordination which are two key attributes needed when walking.

Conclusion

Walking is a great form of exercise and has many benefits, you can use it as the sole form of exercise to achieve your weekly goals. If you want to take your fitness to the next level, it’s often beneficial to work on your strength, balance and at varying intensities and one way to achieve that is through changing your form of exercise as part of a well-balanced training plan.

Whatever your chosen form of exercise, it should be enjoyable, productive and fit in with your lifestyle.

Whether you do long or short walks, you’ll get the benefit and will be on the right foot to getting fitter, stronger and healthier. Find more of our top walking tips here.

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