According to the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, walking has various health benefits. Walking helps reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases. Additionally, walking expends more energy than jogging at the same speed.

Basics of Walking

Walking for 30 minutes every day has many benefits for your overall health, including reducing your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and some cancers. Walking is a free form of exercise that doesn’t require any special equipment or training.

Just 75 minutes of exercise each week can improve your fitness levels, even if it’s not vigorous or done for long periods, according to a 2007 study.

Walking is a good form of exercise because it doesn’t put a lot of strain on your body, you don’t need any special equipment to do it, you can do it any time of day, and you can go at your own pace. It’s also a good form of exercise for people who are overweight, elderly, or who haven’t exercised in a long time because it’s not too strenuous.

Strolling around your neighbourhood is not the only way you can have fun and get fit by walking. There are many different clubs, venues, and strategies you can use to make walking a fun and social part of your lifestyle.

Health Benefits of Walking

You carry your body weight when you walk. Some of the benefits include:

  • increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
  • reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
  • improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint, and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
  • stronger bones and improved balance
  • increased muscle strength and endurance
  • reduced body fat.

Helps With Weight Loss

Walking can help you burn calories and lose weight.

Researchers at the University of Alabama designed an experiment that involved obese patients walking together (a concept known as the ‘walking bus’) to their destinations in and around the city. After eight weeks, their weight was checked, and more than 50% of the participants lost an average of 5 pounds.

Walking is a good way to get some exercise and it also causes you to burn more calories.

Improves Heart Health

A study of adult women in rural New York showed that those who walked regularly had better cardiovascular health than those who didn’t.

Many studies suggest that walking reduces the risk of cardiovascular events by 31%. As per the guidelines set by the American Heart Association/American College of Sports Medicine, every adult should do moderate-intensity workouts (like brisk walking) for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

Regulates Blood Pressure

Walking regularly can help lower blood pressure by improving circulation.

83 participants with mild hypertension walked 10,000 steps per day for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 weeks, they showed a significant drop in blood pressure and had increased stamina.

If you can’t do 10,000 steps a day, try to walk for at least 30 minutes every day to keep your blood pressure levels under control.

Regulates Blood Glucose Levels

If you are looking to improve your fasting and post-meal blood glucose levels, one thing you can do is take short walks on a regular basis.

If you have type 2 diabetes, scientists recommend that you walk at least 3,000 of your 5,000 daily steps briskly to help manage your condition.

The study found that walking for 15 or 45 minutes after meals helped to control blood sugar levels in seniors who are inactive and have fasting blood sugar levels of 105-125 mg/dL.

Strengthens Bones And Eases Joint Movements

If you walk regularly, it will improve the function of your joints and muscles, and also make your bones stronger.

Walking for long periods of time can actually increase knee pain for those who suffer from symptomatic knee osteoarthritis, while walking in multiple shorter bouts can help to ease the pain.

Increases Lung Capacity

When you walk, you breathe in more oxygen, and this exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide at a larger volume can help increase your lung capacity, thereby increasing your stamina and exercise performance.

The European Respiratory Journal published a study that found that being aerobically fit could help increase lung volume.

Boosts Immune Functions

Walking for thirty minutes, five days a week for three months helped reduce the number of infections the patients experienced. Walking can help reduce frequent infections and boost immunity, as shown by a study from Duke University School of Medicine. The study looked at twelve sedentary adults with stable rheumatoid arthritis and found that those who walked for thirty minutes, five days a week for three months had fewer infections.

The participants were asked to walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes, thrice a week for 10 weeks. At the end of the study, they showed improved immune function and infection risk.

Improves Gastrointestinal Function

In addition to eating healthy and drinking lots of water, you should also walk around to keep your digestive system working properly.

The effect of low-intensity exercise on gastrointestinal disorders has been studied extensively with promising results. The exercise improves gastrointestinal motility and blood flow, which could in turn help to alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation. However, more research is needed in this area to confirm these effects.

Uplifts Mood

There have been several studies that have shown that physical activity can help to prevent depression. This is something that many physicians and psychiatrists recommend because it can help to improve your mood. Walking is one of the best things that you can do to help with this.

Reduces Stress

Walking can help to reduce stress by improving circulation and providing nutrients and oxygen to cells. It also stimulates the nervous system receptors and decreases the production of stress hormones.

A study conducted at the Medical University of Graz (Austria) found that walking combined with resting and balneotherapy (bath therapy) helped reduce stress.

Improves Memory

Scientists have found that walking can help improve the memory of older patients.

Regular exercise has been found to increase the size of the hippocampus, while a sedentary lifestyle is associated with smaller hippocampus and memory loss.

Improves Mortality

The amount of time spent walking as well as how strenuous the walking is can impact the likelihood of death. A study that looked at 1239 men showed that men who walked for 1-2 hours each day had a 70% lower chance of dying from cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, or cancer when compared to those who didn’t walk. However, no significant benefits were seen in the men who walked for more than 2 hours.

Walking for 30 Minutes a Day

To reap the health benefits of walking, aim to walk for at least 30 minutes at a brisk pace on most days of the week. Being “brisk” means you can still talk but not sing, and you may be puffing slightly. Moderate activities like walking pose little health risk, but if you have a medical condition, check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program or physical activity.

Building Physical Activity Into Your Life

You don’t have to walk for 30 minutes all at once. You can do shorter walks throughout the day and work up to longer walks as you get more fit. If you want to lose weight, though, you need to do more than 30 minutes of physical activity each day.

Regular physical activity is one of the most effective ways to assist with weight loss and keep the weight off once it is lost.

Some suggestions to build walking into your daily routine include:

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift (for at least part of the way).
  • Get off public transport one stop earlier and walk to work or home.
  • Walk (don’t drive) to the local shops.
  • Walk the dog (or your neighbour’s dog).

Make Walking Part of Your Routine

The best way to make walking a regular habit is to do it at the same time each day. This will help your body get used to the routine. You may also find it helpful to ask someone to walk with you, or to keep a log of your progress.

Wearing a Pedometer While Walking

Pedometers can be used to help people be more active. A pedometer is a device that measures the number of steps you take. You can use it to track your steps throughout the day and see how many steps you take compared to other days or to the recommended amount. This may motivate you to move more. The recommended number of steps for achieving health benefits is 10,000 steps or more.

A Comfortable Intensity for Walking

Covering a set distance each day will help you to monitor your fitness improvement. Walking a longer distance will take more energy as your fitness improves.

You will burn more kilojoules per hour if you walk quickly as opposed to slowly, however, this does not mean that you should push yourself until you are out of breath. A good rule of thumb is to go at a pace where you can still hold a conversation. This will ensure that you stay within your target heart rate, which has health benefits.

Our bodies tend to get used to physical activity, so continue to increase your intensity as you can improve your fitness levels. You can increase the intensity of your walks by:

  • walking up hills
  • walking with hand weights
  • increasing your walking speed gradually by including some quick walking
  • increasing the distance you walk quickly before returning to a moderate walking pace
  • walking for longer.

Warming Up and Cooling Down After Walking

Warming up by walking slowly at a leisurely pace is the best way to start. Afterward, stretch your leg muscles gently for about 20 seconds. If you feel any pain, ease off the stretch.

It’s generally more comfortable to dress in light clothing when you’re participating in physical activity, as sweating and increased body temperature can become uncomfortable, and potentially cause skin irritation. Cooling down gradually after exercise can also help to prevent muscular stiffness and injury.

What Do You Need to Start Walking?

You need a few basic things to walk. Here’s the list:

  • Walking shoes
  • Comfortable clothes
  • A bottle of water and an energy bar for long walks
  • If you walk to your office, wear your office clothes and a pair of comfortable shoes. You can change your footwear later at the office.
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Motivation – Necessary for at least the first 5 days.
  • A pedometer to track your walking goals.

Footwear for Walking

Although walking is a cheap and efficient way to workout, the wrong type of shoe or incorrect walking technique can result in foot or shin pain, blisters, and damage to soft tissue. To avoid this, make sure your shoes are comfortable and provide the necessary heel and arch support. Take light, easy steps, touching your heel to the ground before your toes. And whenever possible, walk on grass instead of concrete to help reduce impact.

How To Stay Motivated for Walking

  • Ask a friend to join you in your new exercise routine.
  • Walk your dog in the morning or evening.
  • Go for a stroll with your friends or family in the evening or after dinner.
  • Walk to your nearest grocery store or a nearby place.
  • Think about the money you can save by walking.
  • Use a walking planner to find out the best walking route, measure heart rate, calories burned, count steps, etc.
  • Explore different paths every day.
  • Join a walking group.
  • Go on hiking trips.
  • Walk for a social cause.

 

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Rhoda is an award-winning dietitian, mature age model, and CEO of Sayvana Women.  

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