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Walking is an activity that’s simple and free to do. Did you know that this straightforward activity that any able-bodied person naturally does offers numerous health benefits? It supports a healthy immune system, boosts your metabolism, strengthens your muscles, and improves your mental health!
Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, even mentioned that walking is the “closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” Read on to learn more about the health benefits of walking and how to maximize them!
Is 30 Minutes of Walking a Day Enough?
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, aiming for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day is great. This means that 30 minutes of brisk walking daily can help you attain the benefits of walking. “Brisk” means that you can still talk but not sing, and you may be puffing slightly.
30 minutes may sound daunting, especially if you’re someone who isn’t active, but fret not as you don’t have to walk all 30 minutes at once. You can split your 30 minutes into 5-10 minute walks over the day. That way, you’ll be able to ease yourself in building up your walking workout and not feel overwhelmed.
Whether you walk for about an hour or 30 minutes or 10 minutes, the important thing is that you got up and moved! As the experts say, any amount of physical activity, no matter how small, is helpful. Accumulated activity throughout the day adds up to provide a great health benefit.
What is a Good Distance to Walk Every Day?
Is a half-mile walk enough? Should your walks be as long as a mile? Truthfully, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the distance of your daily walk. The distance largely depends on you! If you’ve just started with your walking routine, you may want to take it slowly first and cover a short distance. Once you’ve gotten more used to taking walks, you can increase both your distance and minutes little by little. The more you walk, the more you’ll build up your strength and endurance.
What is the Best Benefit of Walking?
It’s undeniable that improvement of physical health is one of the best benefits of having a regular walking workout. Walking can help enhance cardiovascular fitness, alleviate depression and fatigue, improve mood, create less stress on joints, reduce pain, reduce weight gain, lower blood pressure, and so much more. The faster and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits that you reap.
Health Benefits of Walking
Walking is a free and easy activity that can be done at any age and fitness level. Just a half-hour-long walk each day can make you feel better overall. If you’re not convinced yet, here are a couple more benefits that regular walking can give you. Check them out!
Increases Physical Activity
If you’re someone who spends almost the entire day in front of your computer at work, or if you’re so busy with tasks that you don’t have an exercise routine, walking can be good for you. Walking can help turn your inactive lifestyle into a more active one.
As we all know by now, being sedentary is one of the biggest factors that contribute to various health issues. An inactive lifestyle can make you more likely to gain weight, lose muscle strength and endurance, develop a slower metabolism, have poorer blood circulation, escalate inflammation in the body, and more.
However, the chances of all those health conditions happening can be reduced by having a regular exercise routine and walking counts as an exercise. If you have no time to hit the gym, fret not, because taking a walk can up your physical activity levels. You’ll become more active the more you walk and soon, you can put your sedentary lifestyle behind you.
Help You Burn Calories
Don’t be fooled by the idea that high-intensity workouts are the only form of exercise that can help you lose weight. Walking regularly can aid in reducing body fat and as a result, improve your body’s metabolism and response to insulin. The increased metabolism that you gain from daily walking helps in burning calories and preventing muscle loss, which is highly vital the more you get older.
Alternating between walking faster and slowly during your 30-minute walk allows you to burn more calories than if you strolled at a moderate pace for about the same length of time. Aside from that, it’s also ideal to plan a route that includes hills, and different terrains, as well as adding in weights or exercises.
Helps You Manage a Wide Range of Diseases
Arthritis pain, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and breast cancer are all health conditions that almost every individual out there would not like to develop. Multitudes of research have shown us that these diseases can be prevented by exercising but, let’s face it, several exercise forms aren’t accessible to everyone.
Walking, on the other hand, can be easily done anytime, anywhere, and it doesn’t require any kind of equipment. Even more, if you’re someone who has an illness or chronic condition, a low-impact exercise like walking can be good for you. A study published in Creative Nursing revealed that walking 20 minutes per day for 10 weeks improved blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other measures of heart health, countering the likelihood of any heart disease. The American Institute for Cancer Research even suggests that 30-minute brisk walks lower a person’s cancer risk.
Improves Mental Health
Walking doesn’t only improve your physical activity but also helps in enhancing your mental health. Walking can reduce stress and improve mood, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Working in front of your computer for hours can be stressful, especially if you’re juggling multiple tasks.
Taking a break by leaving your workstation for a moment and stepping out of the office to go for a quick walk can help refresh your mind. This is because walking releases a form of exercise endorphins that aids in regulating our emotions.
A study done by the California State University even showed that the more steps people did over the day, the better their moods were. Aside from reducing stress and anxiety, taking a walk can also boost self-esteem and reduce symptoms of social withdrawal.
Boosts Brain Power
Aside from refreshing the mind, taking a walk increases blood flow and pumps the brain with much-needed oxygen and nutrients. A study published in Frontiers in Public Health showcased improved memory in 300 students who took a walk for 10 minutes and answered math tests immediately afterward. Improved memory and enhanced performance in cognitive tests were also seen in people who suffer from memory loss and regularly took walks for a year, according to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Additionally, a study done by sports medicine experts compared people trying to think of new ideas while walking or sitting showed that participants did better while walking outdoors. Researchers concluded that walking opens up a free flow of ideas, increasing creativity and allowing you to up your physical activity at the same time.
As we age, the more we are at risk of losing our balance and falling. In fact, in the United States, it has been reported by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that one out of four older adults falls each year. It’s not only older adults that face this problem as, in more recent years, those in their 20s to 30s have also been having imbalance problems. Falls can cause injuries that can sideline us and increase our risk of disability.
Incorporating walks into your daily routine can change all that. Walking not only builds strength but also places a significant challenge on the brain and nervous system as it improves our ability to engage our abdominal muscles and stay upright. Being able to navigate different terrain as we walk is vital to maintaining long-term health and wellness.
Enhance Immune Function
Including walks in your daily routine can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study tracked 1,000 healthy adults during flu season and found that those who started walking at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day had 43% fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections overall. Moreover, their symptoms were also mild if ever they did get sick compared to adults who were sedentary and did not exercise regularly.
Maximize Your Walking Workout
Now that you know that adding walking to your fitness routine has numerous mental and physical benefits, it’s time to ensure that you gain every perk of it. Here are some tips to help you out!
Wear Proper Walking Gear
The wrong type of shoe can make your walks painful instead of enjoyable. When your shoes don’t have the proper amount of support, you may end up with foot injuries or shin pain. Make sure that your walking shoes are comfortable with appropriate heel and arch supports.
It’s also ideal to wear loose-fitting clothes to keep you comfortable, especially when taking walks outdoors. Clothes that make use of moisture-wicking fabrics are highly recommended. Additionally, wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses if you’re going out during the day. Wear bright colors or reflective tape for visibility if you take your walks at night.
Don’t Forget to Warm Up and Cool Down
It’s important to warm up the muscles before any workout, and it’s also vital to cool down at the end of a workout. Even if walking is a simple activity, warming up your muscles before you go on a walk can help you avoid incurring any injury. Walk slowly for five to 10 minutes to warm up your leg muscles and prepare your body for your workout. At the end of your walk, do the same slow walk to help your muscles cool down. Afterward, gently stretch your muscles to decrease the muscle tension in your body.
Incorporate Exercises in Your Walking Program
You can take your daily stroll to the next level by adding different forms of exercise in between. Doing so helps you build muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance which can help you in attaining your fitness goals. Adding variables can also turn your walk into a fun interval training session and it can make your walks less boring.
You can increase your heart rate further and target a greater degree of muscle groups by mixing in exercises such as jumping jacks, stretches, lunges, high-knees, and the like. You can also carry weights or use a resistance band for a more challenging walk.
Track Your Steps with a Pedometer
Some people find it motivating to see their step count throughout the day. Some pedometers calculate the distance walked. Wearing a pedometer might help you walk more and therefore increase your overall physical activity. It’s been said that an individual should accumulate 10,000 steps a day but this has been disputed by science and that the majority of individuals can only walk an average of 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day. Whether you only get in a few steps a day or over a thousand, the important thing is that you move more which results in you becoming healthier.
Make Walking Enjoyable
One of the most important things to keep in mind is to make your walks enjoyable. When your workout is something that you enjoy and have fun doing, it won’t feel like a chore and you’ll be motivated to do it more. You can set up a walking playlist to listen to whenever you go for a stroll. If music isn’t your cup of tea, you can “read” as you stroll by listening to an audiobook instead.
If you don’t want to increase your heart rate alone, ask a friend, a neighbor, or your co-workers to join you. You can even join a walking group or if there isn’t one in your area, start your own! Having a circle of people who you can do workouts with help in cultivating a community with healthy habits and encouraging one another to achieve fitness goals.
Walking has a ton of benefits: it can help you maintain a healthy weight, it can reduce joint pain, it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduce body weight, refresh the mind, and lessen stress and anxiety, among others. It’s a simple yet fulfilling activity that suits able-bodied people of all ages and fitness levels.
Start walking now and reap all the benefits for better overall health and well-being. Do remember that if you feel any discomfort at any point in time during your workout, it’s best to stop and seek the advice of a certified personal trainer or a medical professional.