Benefits Of Walking: 7 Reasons It’s So Good For You
There’s a reason why experts everywhere (including Sweat’s head trainer, Kayla Itsines) recommend walking. Not only can it help you unwind and clear your head after a busy day, but there are a number of other benefits of walking that can positively impact your mental and physical health.
According to Australia’s Heart Foundation, you only need 30 minutes of walking each day to reap the benefits. It can do wonders for your fitness, strength and energy levels, and the Mayo Clinic says a brisk daily walk can also lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.
This fuss-free workout style won’t cost you a thing — it doesn’t require equipment or access to a gym, but ensuring you have supportive sneakers, the right type of sports bra and comfortable activewear can help prevent annoying mishaps like rubbing, chafing and blisters.
Here’s why you should trade your wheels for a walk and how doing so can increase your chances of living a healthier, more fulfilling life.
What are the benefits of walking?
Walking is a great way to get fit, explore nature, collect your thoughts and take a break from technology — and the best part is almost anyone can do it. To maximise the benefits of walking, you can walk faster, longer or use ankle weights or a weight vest to increase resistance. You can hike off-road or uphill to challenge yourself or escape the elements on an indoor treadmill.
Regardless of where and why you choose to walk, doing it regularly can have a number of advantages for your overall health, including:
Walking may help to prevent disease
The American Council on Exercise’s Walking Toolkit shares some of the amazing health benefits of walking. It explains walking regularly can help improve blood flow and may help to manage or reduce your chances of experiencing the following health-related issues:
- Coronary heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar levels
- Certain types of cancers, like breast and colon cancer
- Vascular disease, which may help you avoid dementia later in life
- And more!
Walking (almost) instantly boosts your mood
It’s no coincidence you feel happier after a walk. When walking, Australia’s SA Health explains your body goes through a number of changes that affect your mental wellbeing, including promoting the production of endorphins, or your brain’s “feel good” hormones.
A 2018 study among young adults found just 10 minutes of brisk walking resulted in an improved mood state, and according to the Cleveland Clinic, physical activity (along with the right foods) can prevent high stress from leading to depression and reduce your risks of anxiety.
Tip: play your favourite workout playlist to magnify those positive vibes!
Walking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors
If you struggle with motivation, try taking your workout outdoors. While there isn’t enough evidence to prove that green exercise is better than indoor exercise, a 2019 systematic review that compared 2010 to 2018 literature found people had a higher level of enjoyment when they exercised in nature.
Exercising outdoors can be a great way to get outside and explore a new hiking trail, beach or your own city — plus getting sunshine on your outdoor walk can help maintain vitamin D levels for healthy bones and stimulate serotonin production in your body to make you feel happier.
Walking strengthens muscles across your whole body
Walking might seem pretty simple, but your body actually works harder than you might think — according to the University of Stirling, you use more than 200 muscles to take a single step! America’s Arthritis Foundation says you use your legs, back and abdominal muscles and even your arms if you pump them while you power walk.
If you want to challenge your muscles while working towards your daily step goal, try walking on an incline or uphill.
Walking unlocks your creativity
Researchers, including one of Stanford’s behavioural and learning scientists, Marily Oppezzo, recommend walking to boost idea generation.
She led a 2014 American Psychological Association research report that compared four test groups of participants who were told to brainstorm unique and creative ideas, whilst either sitting or walking. Results found between 81%-100% were more creative when they were walking.
World-famous writer, thinker and speaker Nilofer Merchant is an advocate for walking meetings as she discusses how “fresh air brings fresh thinking” in her 2013 TEDTalk - great minds like Einstein, Aristotle and Beethoven all taught, learnt and innovated whilst walking. Today, even entrepreneurs like Apple’s Steve Jobs and Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg ideate on the go.
While it has been argued that there still isn’t enough strong evidence to support the relationship between creative thinking and walking, if you come out of your next walking meeting or lunchtime walk without a new idea, you can still be confident you’ve benefitted from moving your body in more ways than one.
Walking improves your quality of life… and you could even live longer
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says those who do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, like brisk walking, each week have a 33% lower risk of mortality from any cause, than those who are inactive. And when combined with strength training, your ability to manage pain may improve and you’ll find everyday tasks easier, giving you overall better quality of life.
Walking is the perfect social exercise
How often, fast and long should you walk?
If you’re doing one of the Sweat programs, a steady-state walk will count towards one of your low-intensity cardio goals (you’ll usually have 2-3 to complete each week alongside your resistance workouts) and you can set your cardio timer for between 10-60 minutes.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says you’ll benefit from walking when you do it regularly, and defines this as walking daily, or a few times each week, for about 30 minutes or longer.
When doing a fast-paced walk, you should aim for your heart rate to be in the low-intensity zone — if you don’t have a fitness tracker, a simple way to tell if you’re in this zone is by using the sing/talk test (you should still be able to still sing when walking at a steady pace). Head trainer, Kayla Itsines, finds she is most comfortable walking at around 6 kilometres per hour (around 3.7mph), but this will be different for everyone depending on your fitness level.
Get moving and start walking for your health today
While it’s one of the most common ways to work out, walking is probably one of the most underestimated types of exercise you can do — from as little as 30 minutes each day, you can get fitter, feel better and experience these incredible benefits for yourself.
If you’ve been walking for a while and want to step it up (see what we did there?), there are always new ways to challenge yourself, plus you might even use your endurance experience to begin running or training for a marathon or social walking event.
What are your favourite ways to walk? Share them in the comments!
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.