Going for a walk is one of the most accessible, most straightforward and most enjoyable ways of exercising. Whether you’re just taking a stroll through your local park, or taking a hike up a mountain trail, you’ll be working your muscles and improving your health with every step you take. It’s a great way of keeping fit and helping your body be in the best shape it can be.
Walking is also a fantastic exercise of choice for all ages, including people who are overweight and those who are looking to get back into their fitness after a break or an injury. As a less intense alternative to running, rowing climbing, or team sports, walking is an exercise that anyone can get into.
To celebrate National Walking Month throughout May, we’ve created this handy guide to the incredible health benefits that walking can bring to your body and your life. Read on to find out why walking is the best.
Fitness can be quite a daunting experience for those who don’t particularly enjoy exercise but getting and staying fit is exceptionally important for the human body. The great thing about walking as a form of exercise is that it’s gentle and easy to get into. You don’t need any special equipment, beyond a walking assistance aid if you’re disabled or elderly, and you don’t need any training or any techniques - all you need is a pavement or a trail and a good pair of walking shoes. Once you get into walking, you’ll see your energy levels increase, your ability to exercise improve and your appreciation of the great outdoors go through the roof.
Improved mental health
Our mental health is just as important as our mental health and taking a stroll each day to get a breath of fresh air can do wonders for your mind. As an easy way of exercising, walking can give you all the mental health boosts that all other fitness activities provide, including improved sleep, the release of feel good endorphins in your brain, better focus on the here and now, and the production of the stress-busting hormone cortisol. Walking in the countryside can also be the opportunity to escape urban life for a short while and to soak in the great outdoors! To find out more about the benefits of walking for your mental health, visit the mental health charity’s Mind’s information page.
Better heart health
Walking counts as an aerobic exercise. That means it’s excellent for improving your cardiovascular health – which is the condition of your heart lungs, circulatory and respiratory systems. If you regularly head out on walks each day, even if it’s just a turn around the block, you are causing your heart rate and your blood circulation to rise which in turn helps strengthen your heart. This in turn helps stave off serious diseases such as heart disease or strokes. In order to inspire you on your walks, you could consider buying a watch with a heart rate monitor, so that you can measure the progress you’re making with your health and fitness.
It’s generally accepted between medical experts that being overweight is bad news, and so any exercise that helps you get rid of extra fat can only be a good thing (unless you are underweight.) Walking is one of those exercises, and professionals agree that going for a brisk walk each day for 30 mins up to 90 mins can helped you shift some excess pounds across the course of the week. The ‘brisk’ element of this exercise is the key word here; you’ll need to keep up a fairly sharp pace to burn calories. If you’re having trouble getting started at a brisk pace, begin with a slower walk and build things up. For an idea of how fast you should be walking, have a read of this guide.
Stronger muscles and bones
If you’re capable of it, quick walking and power walking are good ways to improve your muscle and bone strength. Less intense than running or jogging, these forms of fast walking can exercise and power your joints, keeping up your bone mass and helping to add some strength to not only the muscles in your legs, but across your whole body. Importantly, it helps keep your flexibility up across the entire body, which is great for your knees, hips and ankles, making the circulation of joint fluids much smoother to aid recovery. Finally, power and brisk walking can ward off bone and joints diseases, such as osteoporosis and arthritis - particularly important for older people.
A regular walking routine can do wonders for your health, and as you get in better shape and get more confident in your abilities and your fitness, you may find you want to try out other forms of exercise to keep your winning streak going. For more information about how to kickstart your fitness and improve your health, visit the Ramsay health blog here.