Whether you're walking for health, to meet people or to explore your surroundings, you'll reap many benefits from stepping outside and putting on foot in front of the other. Walking is a free, low-impact activity that doesn’t require any equipment, and most people walk every day without even realising they are exercising. Walking can improve your physical and mental health and is suitable for people of all ages and abilities.
Getting your joints moving is just one of the many reasons why you should take up walking. By being physically active, you could be prolonging your life and significantly reduce your risk of getting many diseases.
Walking helps keep your heart healthy by increasing ‘good’ cholesterol and reducing ‘bad’ cholesterol. It also decreases your risk of developing high blood pressure, which in turn reduces your risk of coronary heart disease. One study has even shown that walking is better than running at reducing you risk of heart disease.
Like any physical activity, walking regularly reduces your risk of:
Being active is thought to decrease your risk of getting these diseases by between 20-50%.
You’ll burn calories as you walk. How many you burn depends on your weight, distance and speed, but walking at around 2mph for 30 minutes will burn around 75 calories. As you walk more, you can increase the speed of your walk, which will burn even more calories and could help you lose weight.
Walking is also an excellent way to tone your legs, buttocks and abdominals. Make sure that you are standing up straight with good posture to effectively tone your stomach area and waist. You’ll tone your body even more if you walk uphill.
Your joints will be at their healthiest when you are active, and you need to keep your muscles and surrounding tissue strong to maintain support for your bones. Studies have shown that walking can be beneficial for those with arthritis, although if you have arthritis you should talk to your doctor before starting any kind of exercise programme.
Physical activity and mental health are often linked, and an increase in exercise can substantially boost your wellbeing. One study showed that the more steps participants took in a day, the better their mood.
Sometimes going for a walk can give you a fresh perspective and help you figure things out. Walking activates soothing neurons on the brain and can help you cope better with subsequent stressors.
Active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than those who are sedentary, and walking can elevate mood in those suffering from anxiety and depression. In fact, some evidence suggests that physical activity such as walking is as beneficial as taking medication in people with anxiety and depression.
A short walk is a fantastic, natural way to energise your body. Going for a ten minute stroll in your lunch break can leave you feeling energised and more alert.
Walking increases your cognitive function, by improving memory. It can also lead to an increase in creativity.
Many studies have found that walking in the day can decrease insomnia and lead to better sleep.
Walking can be as sociable or as solitary as you like, but many find that walking groups or walking with a friend is a great way to be sociable, get out of the house and meet new people.
Walking in the fresh air has many benefits. You’ll clean out your lungs, increase serotonin and purify your blood. Increased vitamin D from being in daylight is also beneficial, and is yet another reason why you should start walking for your health.
Walking creates no pollution, and is a great way to get around without causing any harm to the environment.
Exploring on foot is one of the best ways to soak up your local area. You’re more likely to notice things you wouldn’t normally if you are walking as opposed to cycling or travelling by car. Walking can also be part of mindfulness, and can even be a meditative process.