Is Walking Really Beneficial?
The answer to your question is YES.
When people think of aerobic activity, they tend to think of running. Although running can be great for a person’s health, it is not the only option for good aerobic exercise. Moderate exercise can be good, too. Walking is a prime example. It has a multitude of health benefits, it is largely accessible, and it is a great way to begin your fitness journey if you’re not sure where to start.
8 Benefits of Walking
Here’s why you should go on a walk:
Improves your cardiovascular health.
Do you need to lower your risk of heart disease?
Walking lowers the risk of cardiovascular events by 31% in both men and women. Walking also improves heart disease risk factors. These factors include “cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress” (Harvard Health).
Boosts your mood and your mental health.
A study found that, in comparison to sitting, a 12-minute walk increases cheerfulness, attentiveness, self-esteem, and vigor. Exercise, including walking, can also help relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Some evidence even suggests that, compared to inactive people, “physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression” (ADAA).
Helps your joints.
Walking lubricates the joints and strengthens joint-supporting muscles, thus protecting joint health. Harvard Health notes that walking can also help with arthritis-related joint pain. Lubricated joints ultimately increases mobility, easing our day-to-day functional movement.
Puts less stress on your body than running does.
Running puts a person’s body under stress that equals three times his or her body weight. This is because runners’ strides are partially airborne, and their bodies must absorb the impact of landing back on the ground. In comparison, walkers always have one foot on the ground. The lower-impact motion is less stressful, and it leaves walkers significantly less prone to injury than runners. The reduced stress on the body makes walking a good exercise for those who struggle with pain or injuries.
Reduces the effects of weight-promoting genes.
In a study on 32 weight-promoting genes, Harvard researchers studied 12,000 people. Among those who briskly walked for an hour per day, the genetic tendency towards obesity was reduced by half.
Walking-intensity can be adjusted to fit your fitness level.
Walking doesn’t require any kind of special training or equipment. You also don’t need to start at a specific fitness level because it’s an easily adjusted exercise. Depending on your fitness needs, you can begin with a brief, daily walk or something more extensive. Then, as you get comfortable, add to the intensity. You can do so by increasing the duration, the pace, or the incline. Tracking your progress will help you determine how to increase or decrease your walking pace.
Helps prevent diseases.
This is a good reminder. We all need to keep in mind that walking and other moderate exercise protects against health complications including heart disease, diabetes, dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, and even cancer. Walking can also help lower the weight and blood pressure of those who have diabetes.
Good for your brain.
Walking is known to increase creative output. Walking also helps prevent age-related deterioration of brain tissue and improve memory. Specifically, an increased heart rate increases blood flow to brain which helps memory. Clearing the mind by heading out to walk will bring brain function clarity.
Tips for Walking
Have you noticed that people who live in the city have a healthier body weight? In a study of 12,000 adults, researchers found that people who live in the city are less likely to be overweight or obese than people who live in the suburbs. This is because the urban population does more walking to get around. Whenever possible, walking is a healthy alternative to driving because it keeps you physically active. Brisk walks are recommended for raising your heart rate. Next time you pick up the car keys, think to yourself, “Could I walk there?”
Use inclines and stairs to your advantage.
Walking on an incline requires more energy than walking on a flat land, thus burning more calories. Walking upstairs is even more demanding. Did you know… walking upstairs is two times more challenging than a brisk walk on flat land and 50% more challenging than walking on an incline. Utilizing stairs and inclines will help you make the most of your walks.
Whether you use a treadmill or go for walks on the trails, adjusting the way you walk at various intervals will help you maximize your workout. When you vary the way you walk, it causes your heart rate to either rise or lower. Compared to a steady heart rate, a fluctuating heart rate strengthens the muscle and burns more calories. Consider adjusting variables such as incline, walking pace, and style of movement (i.e. incorporating lunges).
It is important to wear supportive shoes and weather-appropriate clothing (if you walk outside) when you go on a walk. It is ideal to wear shoes that are specifically designed for walking or running.
The American Psychological Association says that walking outside can improve attention, increase positive emotions, and cause better reflection on life’s problems. In other words, nature is good for your mental and emotional health.
Music can help energize you as you are walking, and variations in musical rhythms can help you vary your walking pace. Podcasts are another great listening option. If you are wearing headphones, however, remember to keep the music at a reasonable volume. If the music is too loud, it can lessen your awareness of your surroundings, which can be a safety issue.
Call up a friend or commit to daily walks with your pet. Walking companions can help motivate you and keep you accountable. They can also make walking more enjoyable.
Don’t know where to walk?
Here are some suggestions:
Make the most of your grocery shopping.
Consider parking towards the back of the lot to maximize the walk between your car and the store. Upon entering the store, you can take a lap around the perimeter of the building before you start shopping.
Call a friend and meet up at a local part. Visit nearby trails. Walk around your neighborhood or surrounding neighborhoods. Do some laps around your local high school or middle school track.
Try walking with a YouTube-guided walking video. Get your steps in for 1-3 miles.
Walk while you wait for your kids.
Whether your kids are practicing at the ballpark or attending an art camp, take advantage of this time. Instead of waiting in the car, do some laps around the parking lot.
Walking may seem like a simple exercise, but that does not mean it isn’t valuable. Whether your walk is indoors or outdoors, moderate or brisk, it can benefit you both mentally and physically. So, the next time the weather is too beautiful for you to stay inside, the dog whines next to his leash, or you have to choose between the elevator and the stairs, consider walking.
Interested in starting your own personal fitness journey? Need a personal trainer? Contact Joy.
You can also find Personalized Fitness For You on Facebook.
Joy Grout, the owner of Personalized Fitness For You, has more than 30 years of fitness and health experience, supported by a Bachelor of Science degree in Therapeutic recreation. She has worked with a variety of populations in clinical and community-based settings, and she possesses various certifications from national fitness organizations. Her diverse set of experiences allows her to focus on your individual needs and design a program specifically for you. Joy offers effective virtual training sessions as well as in-person training sessions in Winona Lake, Indiana. Joy meets women wherever they are in their journey or stage of life, and she helps them dig deep to find their inner strengths and skills.
American Council on Exercise “A Walk a Day”
American Psychological Association “Nurtured by nature”
Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) “Exercise for Stress and Anxiety”
Harvard Health Publishing “5 surprising benefits of walking” and “Walking: Your steps to health”
NBC “Why walking is the most underrated form of exercise”
Science Daily “Walking may lessen the influence of genes on obesity by half”