8 Health Benefits of Walking
If you’re looking to exercise but high-intensity interval training seems like a worst nightmare scenario for you, consider a much easier activity that still benefits your health . . . walking. While it might sound like too simple of an option for exercise, regular brisk walking actually boasts loads of helpful health benefits, some of which might surprise you. Don’t miss this fun and informative guide!
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Here are 8 Health Benefits of Walking
A brisk walk (or simply walking uphill) can burn over 80 calories per half-hour for a 130 lb. person and about 160 calories per half-hour for a 200 lb. person. A daily walking schedule combined with a healthy diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, legumes, and healthy fats (like avocado) could be your ticket to maintaining a healthy weight.
Walking outside in the lush sights and sounds of nature has actually been shown to boost people’s mental wellness (versus walking in a bustling urban area). Researchers at Stanford University found that people who walked through a natural greenspace were more attentive and less likely to brood on negative thoughts and feelings. With the potential to enhance positive moods and outlooks, walking could be just the stress-buster you need.
Strengthens Bones and Muscles
As a “weight-bearing” activity which requires you to lift your legs up against the force of gravity, walking naturally helps to strengthen bones and muscles. Your bones reach their peak mass (strength and density) around age 30, but for women, rapid bone loss often begins after menopause. Walking helps to strengthen bones and maintain healthy bone density to protect against osteoporosis.
If walking is your go-to fitness activity, why not use it to help others? A host of nonprofits and national organizations use walking and marching as a way to raise awareness and money for their cause. For example, you can walk to end hunger, march with your favorite political movement, or participate in a walk-a-thon to fight breast cancer.
Improves Coordination and Balance
Walking, whether it’s on a moving treadmill, down the street, or on a moderate hike, requires the unique coordination of your legs, arms, head, and core to both remain upright as well as stay balanced. Walking over obstacles, changing directions, tiptoeing on the curb, even walking backward – all of these seemingly innocuous switch-ups all help to improve your own coordination and balance.
Supports Healthy Joints
Like swimming and cycling, walking offers a low-impact alternative to exercise that is more accessible for people with mobility impairment or joint diseases like arthritis. Mobility aids like walking canes provide support and stability for people who need a little extra assistance, and they come in a variety of portable sizes and stylish designs.
Promotes Social Interaction
The chances of you running into a friend or neighbor on your daily outdoor walk are much higher than if you were to simply bust through a yoga routine in your living room. Social interaction is a key tool in combating anxiety and depression and has also been shown to benefit seniors in staving off cognitive decline and dementia.
Combats Lifestyle Diseases
Want to counteract the effects of prolonged sitting? Fighting back to prevent common lifestyle diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease may be possible by compensating for some of your excessive sitting with exercise. A 2016 Norwegian study published in the journal The Lancet found that an hour of exercise (like brisk walking) for every 8 hours of sitting appeared to help lower risk of early death associated with prolonged sitting.
How to Launch a Walking Routine?
Procuring all these great health benefits from walking does require a little more effort than simply popping outside for a leisurely stroll each morning though. And like with any exercise, there is some risk for injury, especially if you are not properly prepared. Keep this quick checklist in mind:
Wear proper footwear. Power your brisk walk with well-fitting walking shoes or sneakers that offer you good arch and ankle support as well as cushioning and shock absorption. Old sneakers with worn-out soles or edges can imperceptibly alter your natural gait and actually lead to foot and knee issues.
Schedule walking time. Make your investment in walking more count by scheduling it into your daily activities, not just seeing if you have time for it each day. Set reminders on your phone to alert you when it is time to walk and invite friends to join you for added enjoyment.
Choose an optimal walking environment. Find a great walking route that offers you limited dangers like potholes, low-hanging limbs, and high traffic volumes. And always have an alternative route available, i.e. in case of bad weather, like a shopping mall or your own gym.
Walk with purpose. A brisk walk should get your heart rate pounding and clock you in around 3.5mph. Depending on the duration and weather, you might even break a sweat. Start your walking routine at a comfortable pace and then gradually build-up speed (and hill work) over time.
Warm up and cool down. Get your body ready for exercise with 5 to 10 minutes of dynamic warm-ups like slow walking or doing jump squats. Cool down after your walk and stretch out key muscles like your Achilles tendon.