Walking is a great form of exercise for those looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Not only can it increase cardiovascular fitness and help with weight loss, but research has also found that just 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and a range of other serious conditions.
Unlike other sports it is completely free and doesn’t require any specialist equipment or training to get started. It’s a low impact activity that can be performed completely at your own pace, making it the ideal workout for the elderly, people looking to shed a few pounds and those getting into fitness for the first time.
Health Benefits of Walking
Increase Muscle Strength and Endurance
A physical benefit of regularly walking is increased strength and tone in the muscles in your legs, especially if you walk in hilly areas or on an incline treadmill.
Your muscular endurance will benefit too as a result of walking. Endurance is gained through time and repetition, so those who walk on a regular basis and cover a considerable distance can expect to see the best results.
Joint Pain Relief
Walking can help to protect your joints, particularly your knees and hips as it helps to lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support them. This is why people with arthritis are often advised to go for walks.
Burn Calories and Reduce Body Fat
Like any form of physical activity, walking will help to burn calories which in turn will help you to maintain or lose weight. Exactly how many calories you’ll burn will depend on various factors, such as your weight, the pace at which you walk at, distance covered and terrain (you’ll burn more calories when walking uphill than you will on a flat surface).
Being overweight is a key risk factor in developing Type 2 diabetes, so regular walking and ensuring you maintain a healthy weight will reduce the likelihood of the condition affecting you.
Boost your Energy
Walking can also be an effective way of increasing your energy. It increases oxygen flow throughout the body and can increase levels of cortisol, a hormone that helps to raise energy levels.
Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Walking provides a good workout for your heart and circulation system as it raises your heart rate and gets blood pumping around your body. It can lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL, low-density lipoprotein) and increase levels of good cholesterol (HDL, high-density lipoprotein), helping you to keep a healthy blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing a heart disease or experiencing a stroke.
Improve Mental Health
Studies have shown that exercise causes your body to release endorphins (a hormone that triggers a positive feeling in the body) helping to improve your self-esteem and general mood. This feeling of euphoria and reduced anxiety you may feel after a walk or other type of workout is often referred to as a ‘runner’s high’.
Increased Cardiovascular Fitness
Walking is also a good cardiovascular exercise, especially if you’re able to maintain a brisk pace. It causes your large muscles and heart to work hard, which will gradually make your heart stronger and more efficient.
Frequent walking helps to build lower-body strength, an incredibly important factor of good balance.
6 Easy Ways to Incorporate Walking into your Daily Life
Finding the time to go for a walk everyday may be difficult if you live a particularly hectic life. By just tweaking your lifestyle slightly however you should be able to find the time for a short walk. To show how, here we’ve listed some of the simpler ways you can incorporate walking into your life without drastically changing your usual routine:
- Take the stairs instead of the lift.
- If you use public transport, get off one stop earlier and walk the remaining distance.
- Walk to the shops and other local locations rather than drive.
- Go for a walk with a colleague during your lunch break.
- Walk the dog (if you don’t have a dog, offer to take a friend’s or family member’s dog out).
- Go for a light stroll after dinner.
Top Tips for Walking
To help make sure your walking is safe, enjoyable and effective, below we’ve explained some of our top tips –
Make it a Habit
If you’re getting into exercise for the first time, you’re likely to encounter days where you just don’t feel like going for a walk. However, putting off your walks can quickly become a bad habit (and one that can be hard to get out of) so we suggest scheduling them in advance and treating them as if it’s a hospital appointment that you simply can’t miss.
Wear a Pedometer
It doesn’t matter whether you’re wearing a simple pedometer or an Apple Watch, having something to track your steps will help to motivate you to get moving more. We advise setting yourself attainable goals and progressively increasing this number over time as your strength and endurance improves. The recommended number of steps to accumulate per day is 10,000.
Participate in a Challenge
Entering a challenge can be an effective way for making sure you stay committed to going on regular walks. Our virtual challenges, for example, task you to cover a specified number of miles throughout the month in however many walks you require, wherever you want, whenever you want and at a pace that suits you. And once you complete the challenge you’ll receive a prestigious medal as a reward for your dedication!
Footwear for Walking
Although walking is a relatively inexpensive form of exercise, one thing we strongly recommend is to invest in is a good pair of walking shoes. Visit your local sports shop and try on a range of different pairs from a variety of reputable brands and purchase the pair you feel most comfortable in.
Walking in the wrong type of shoe can cause foot and shin pain as well as blisters and injuries to soft tissue.
Listen to Music
Listening to your favourite songs while you walk can be a good method of distracting your mind and can make the time go faster.
Vary your Routes
Walking around the same streets everyday can get repetitive so try to vary where you exercise. National parks, the seaside, woodland areas and so on all provide scenic routes for you to take your walks.
Join a Walking Group
Some prefer walking on their own, but if you enjoy the company then we recommend joining a local walking group. Not only will you make new friends, but you’ll also be introduced to numerous routes that you might not have been otherwise aware of. They welcome people of all ages, backgrounds and levels of fitness and organise a range of day, half day and weekend walks.
Increase the Intensity
As you improve your fitness levels you can increase the intensity of your walks. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to walk for longer or extend the distance you cover; you could walk with hand weights or increase the speed you walk at instead.
Walking Challenge to Lose Weight and Keep Fit
If you’re looking to take part in an enjoyable walking challenge, then look no further than Race At Your Pace. Every month we organise virtual walking challenges of varying distances, enabling people of all ages and abilities to participate.