Ready to put a spring in your step? Read on to learn all about the many benefits of walking!
One of my favorite activities is walking. Not only is this physical exercise easy and accessible, but it’s fun for my entire family. My doctor, therapist, and friends also support this hobby that provides invaluable physical, emotional, and social benefits. Here are a few ways regular walks can improve your health and how you can enjoy this effective workout.
Physical Benefits of Walking
Give your full body, from head to toes, a workout when you walk. Some results you’ll see include the following health benefits.
- Burn calories. Combat weight gain and fight obesity and associated health problems with walks. The speed, distance, and terrain of your daily walks determine the calorie number you can burn.
- Strengthen your heart. Brisk walking reduces your risk for heart disease and stroke. Walking can also lower your blood pressure. Add distance, length, and hills or steps to your walk to make your heart even stronger.
- Decrease your blood sugar. According to a study from the American Diabetes Association, a walk just 15 minutes after meals lowers your blood sugar and diabetes risk. As a bonus, this routine helps you meet your walking goals.
- Reduce joint pain. Movement and compression lubricate your knees and hips, strengthen the muscles that support your joints, and increase your range of motion. Ultimately, walking reduces arthritis and other pain in and around your joints.
- Support bone health. Your bones naturally weaken with age, but walking can reduce bone loss. Combat your risk for fracture with regular exercise.
More Physical Benefits of Walking
- Improve sleep. Relieve insomnia with a walk in the morning or early afternoon. Regular walks also reduce physical and emotional pain and stress, which can hinder your sleep quality.
- Boost immunity. With physical activity, you strengthen your immune system and combat illness. Walking may not prevent you from getting sick, but it can reduce your risk of contracting an illness or limit the severity of your symptoms.
- Support digestion. Walking works the muscles in your core and abdomen. As these muscle areas grow stronger, your digestion improves.
- Elevate your energy. Increase oxygen flow and cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine levels when you walk. The result is higher energy and productivity.
- Improve mental capacity. Walking may expand the gray matter in your brain, a sign of brain health. Physical fitness, exercise, and movement can also boost your memory, focus, multi-tasking ability, and executive function as you age.
- Prolong life expectancy. You’re not guaranteed to live longer if you walk, but you may indeed prolong your life if you routinely walk. This benefit could result from the health improvements you’ll see as you exercise.
Emotional Benefits of Walking
Your emotional health includes your mood, happiness, confidence, and future outlook. Invest in your emotional well-being when you walk.
- Improve mood. Your outlook on life may become more positive as you walk. That’s because a brisk walk distracts you from problems. Plus, exercise releases endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, three chemicals that boost your sense of happiness, goodwill, and well-being.
- Reduce anxiety and depression. Regular walks help you release daily cares, concerns, and anxieties. Walking may also lighten your mood and relieve seasonal or chronic depression, making this physical activity important year-round.
- Combat stress. Walking can relieve tension in your body, mind, and emotions. Regular exercise also modifies your nervous system to experience less stress, tension, anger, and frustration every day.
- Boost self-esteem and confidence. As you add walking to your routine, you begin to see changes in your body, mind, and well-being. These improvements help you gain self-esteem and confidence. You realize that if you can reach your goals of walking regularly, you can also achieve other personal and professional goals.
- Support better breathing for meditation. Walking works out your heart and lungs, which can improve your breathing. Your breathing matters as you meditate, do yoga, and improve your emotional health.
- Practice mindfulness. Use your daily walk to focus on your movements and stay present to the sights, smells, and sounds around you. As you become more confident while practicing presence and mindfulness, you’ll notice that you remain calmer, more aware, and less reactive at other times throughout the day.
Social Benefits of Walking
From walks with friends to improved community relationships, discover the social benefit of this fitness activity.
- Establish stronger relationships. Ask your family members or friends to walk and talk as you combat social withdrawal, boost happiness and invest in your friendships. You can also meet new people when you join a walking or hiking club. Or build social connections with your neighbors as you walk around the block.
- Improve community connections. Get to know your neighbors as you walk. These connections boost neighborhood safety, security, and relations, which helps everyone in your community.
- Promote equality. While walking, you can meet people from all backgrounds, walks of life, and economic statuses. This exercise is also free and requires only a sturdy pair of shoes, making it an equal opportunity experience.
- Expand your understanding. As you walk solo or with friends, learn something new. Discuss current events, debate ideas, or listen to a book or podcast. While you exercise your body, you also expand your thinking, worldview, and perspective.
- Solve problems. Whether you walk on the beach or around the mall, exercise clears your mind. You’ll think more creatively and discover new ideas as you move your body. The next time you have a problem to solve in your personal life, neighborhood, or at work, take a walk and find a solution.
- Preserve the environment. When you walk rather than drive, you reduce carbon emissions and energy usage. Your investment preserves the environment for future generations.
- Protect infrastructure. Less driving means the roads last longer. Essentially, your decision to walk can reduce congestion and lower infrastructure costs and future taxes for everyone in your community.
How to Get Started Walking
While you know the physical, emotional, and social benefits you’ll gain from walking, that first step is often the hardest.
To get started, talk with your doctor. Make sure you’re healthy enough for exercise and create a walking plan that matches your abilities and needs.
Next, purchase a sturdy pair of walking shoes and moisture-wicking socks. Your footwear should support your entire foot, including arch and heel. Fitness and sporting goods stores typically offer a large selection of options.
Remember to wear comfortable clothing, too. You’re more likely to stick to a walking routine when your clothing fits well.
You’re now ready to choose your walking route. For safety, stick to well-lit and well-marked paths, walk only in areas designated for pedestrians and obey traffic laws. Feel free also to explore new trails, beaches, and neighborhood paths, though, as you mix up your workouts.
Lastly, schedule at least 30 to 60 minutes of walking on five days of the week. To see results, you can take your walks all at once or in 10-minute intervals. Try these tricks to add more walking into your schedule and help you reach your fitness goal.
- Walk to/from work, school and errands.
- Park as far away from store entrances as possible.
- Get off the bus one or two stops early.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Pace as you talk on the phone or fold laundry.
- Schedule walking meetings.
- Visit the mall or use your treadmill if the weather’s bad.
- Volunteer to walk the dogs at your local pet shelter.
Maximize Your Daily Walks
Once you establish a walking routine, you may discover that you need a bit more excitement, energy, or engagement. Freshen your routine and ensure your walks are productive with three tips.
First, alter your pace and intensity to boost the effectiveness of your workouts. Aim to walk 100 to 135 steps a minute, which is about 2.5 to four miles an hour. You can also walk fast for 30 to 60 seconds, slow the pace for one to two minutes, and then walk fast again. Or incorporate hills and stairs for extra intensity.
Next, watch your posture and gait. Keep your back straight, allow your hips to move naturally, and swing your arms as you keep your abs tight. Also, your steps should be heel to toe and fairly even rather than too small or too big. Sync your breathing to your stride, too, to prevent tiring quickly.
Finally, use a few simple tools that increase your motivation and maximize the fitness aspect of your walks. A pedometer counts your steps and helps you reach the 15,000 steps a day you need if you wish to lose weight. Or try an app like Map My Walk, Walkmeter, or Walking for Weight Loss that tracks your routes, speed, and progress. You can also chat with your loved ones on FamilyApp to have them keep you accountable so you reach those walking goals. Even something as simple as neon shoelaces, a walking buddy, or music can motivate you to maintain your walking routine.
Safety Tips for Your Everyday Walks
To reap the maximum benefits of walking, talk to your doctor and ensure you’re healthy enough for this exercise. Then follow several safety precautions.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Carry an ID and phone.
- Wear a reflective vest or carry a flashlight if you walk in low light or after dark.
- Exercise with a friend or share your walking plan with someone.
- Choose supportive shoes with sturdy traction.
- Drink water before, during, and after your walk to stay hydrated.
- Wear sunscreen in all weather.
Take a Walk Today
Walking is one of the best full-body fitness exercises you can do for your overall health. Plan to take a walk today and every day as you invest in yourself, and be prepared to gain numerous physical, emotional, and social benefits.