The benefits of exercise are well-known. There’s also no denying that many of us need to get out and move much more than we actually do. But, it’s easy to assume that exercise should be vigorous, that it should make you sweat, and burn calories. So then, why is walking good for you when it isn’t particularly intensive?
Honestly, it’s too easy to forget about walking. There are so many more intense options, along with types of exercise that are seen as amazing, like Zumba, yoga, cardio, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and boot camp classes.
Walking often just gets lost in the mix, seen as inferior and much less powerful.
Yet, there’s something special about walking. It slows you down, allowing you to enjoy the world around you. Walking outdoors gives you the chance to breathe in fresh air, to still your mind, and to enjoy life. What could be better?
Is Walking Good For You?
- The Benefits Of Walking
- How Many Steps Should You Take Each Day?
- Are There Any Problems With Walking?
- Does Walking Help You Lose Weight?
- Is Nordic Walking More Powerful?
- Final Thoughts
The Benefits Of Walking
It’s Inexpensive And Versatile
Walking is a great form of exercise as you don’t need any equipment or a gym membership. All you need is yourself, a half-decent pair of shoes, and somewhere safe to walk.
You might need to bundle up in the winter (or perhaps buy a treadmill), but even doing so isn’t too much of an issue. Walking is certainly much cheaper than needing to shell out for a weekly gym membership.
Plus, you get to walk on your schedule. That might mean going for a long walk after work or a short 10-minute one during a break. Few other exercise approaches are this flexible.
The low impact nature of walking means that most people can do it.
You might need to walk more slowly or perhaps use a cane if you have an injury, but even then, walking still provides plenty of benefits.
That highlights another important point too – you can adjust your walking pace. Many people aim to walk faster than they normally would, but not so fast that they’re out of breath. Having a brisk pace like that means you’re giving your body a decent workout, without exhausting yourself too quickly.
Changing your pace can be effective too. This could involve walking briskly for 15 minutes, then slowly for 15 minutes – alternating between the two.
Walking Gets You Outside
Many types of exercise involve being indoors, often in the gym or perhaps the pool. You might even be in a stuffy room filled with lots of other people.
Walking, on the other hand, gets you away from all that. Most of the time you’ll be outside, breathing in plenty of fresh air, and enjoying the environment.
Walking is most enjoyable if you can get out of the city and into nature. There’s something amazing about walking next to a babbling stream or along a forest path. Doing so is as good for your mind and your spirit as it is for your body.
Of course, this won’t always be possible. Many people will end up walking local streets instead. This isn’t all bad though, as you get the chance to explore your neighborhood. Listening to some music and keeping an eye out for interesting things in your environment can help make the experience more interesting.
Walking Can Be A Social Activity
You don’t need to walk on your own. Walking with someone else is a fantastic way to combine exercise and social connection. In fact, walking with a close friend might end up feeling like a long catch-up, rather than exercise.
You may find some walking groups in your local community too. These can be amazing ways to make new friends and explore your environment.
It Gets You On Your Feet And Moving
Many of us spend far too much time sitting and not enough time on our feet. Excessive sitting has even been linked to an increased risk of disease and dying prematurely (although, despite popular myths, sitting is not the new smoking).
Walking is an easy way to get off your butt. Even just getting up and doing a circuit of the room every half an hour can be amazing (especially for those of us who work from home).
You’re Improving Your Mental Health
Exercise, of any type, helps to improve mental health – decreasing the risk of depression and helping people to recover from depression, along with many other mental health issues.
Some of the features of walking make it particularly powerful for mental health.
The first is that walking is easy. It doesn’t require much effort and no equipment. This is crucial, as people with depression often struggle with even simple tasks. Getting to a class at the gym regularly can be all but impossible, while going for a short work might just be manageable.
The fact that you’re outside in the fresh air helps too.
Then there’s the mindfulness aspect, Walking doesn’t require much coordination or energy. This gives people plenty of space to think and to experience. Doing so often helps them to get back in tune with themselves and feel less overwhelmed by their emotions.
Finally, walking is great for confidence. You’re doing something. You’re getting out there. You’re in the fresh air. It doesn’t matter whether you get far or not, as you can always get further the next day and the next and the next.
There Are Physical Health Benefits Too
Don’t assume that walking isn’t helpful simply because it isn’t strenuous. Walking regularly has still been linked to various benefits, including improved heart health and better blood circulation.
Walking also helps to improve your sleep, reduce your stress, and improve your mood. Those benefits all have flow on effects on physical health. For example, most of us eat more healthily when we’re not stressed.
How Many Steps Should You Walk Each Day?
Recommendations often suggest that you should be walking around 10,000 steps each day, which calculates to around 5 miles (the exact distance varies depending on your stride length). That number of steps might seem like a lot – especially as most Americans only manage 3,000 or 4,000 steps daily.
This isn’t an arbitrary number either. Instead, studies do show that the benefits of walking increase with the distance walked. That being said, even getting 3,000 or 4,000 steps per day offers some benefits.
10,000 steps per day shouldn’t be a hard and fast rule anyway.
While that figure is often promoted as the idea, plenty of bloggers have picked that number apart. It’s clear that you don’t need to hit 10,000 steps per day to be healthy. Plenty of people are fit and healthy, but don’t get anywhere near that step count.
In fact, other recommendations suggest getting between 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity per week. You could manage that with a few decent walks each week, rather than aiming for 10,000 every day.
Are There Any Problems With Walking?
For many people, the biggest problem with walking as exercise is the time it takes.
Let’s assume for a moment that you get your 10,000 steps in one block of exercise. If that’s the case, you’d need to walk for an hour and a half or perhaps a little longer, to hit your step target.
If you’re doing some steps during the day, then you won’t need to walk for as long to hit the 10,000 daily target. Still, you might need an hour of walking.
Is that realistic? The answer depends on your situation. If your life is very busy, you might get more benefits from other types of exercise, ones that take less time and are more intense.
It’s also important not to make walking the be-all-end-all for exercise. I’ve seen some people so focused on getting their 10,000 steps in that they forgo more intense exercise, as they don’t have enough time for both. That’s a shame, as each type of exercise has its own benefits.
Yoga, for example, doesn’t help you get steps in, but it is powerful for flexibility and mental health. An intense workout in the gym, on the other hand, could be perfect for building muscles and burning calories.
You could also try an exercise video or some type of sport. Both of those might be more interesting than walking for an hour around the town.
Think About Your Safety
Walking isn’t an intense exercise, but you can still hurt yourself. The biggest problem is having a fall. It doesn’t take much to end up in hospital, especially if you land badly.
Anyone with pre-existing muscle or joint problems may be particularly at risk of a fall. Poor eyesight puts you at risk as well, as you mightn’t be able to see all the trip hazards in your environment.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to reduce the chance of falls, like making sure you have good shoes, walking on an even surface, keeping to well-lit environments, and watching where you put your feet.
The other main risk comes from other people. While walking on your own is often safe, this isn’t always the case. Some environments are a bit shady or even downright dangerous. If you’re in a low-income neighborhood, for example, walking mightn’t be the best choice for exercise.
Finding a walking buddy and making sure someone knows where you’re going are useful ways to keep yourself safe. Even then, it’s important to weigh up the risks versus rewards. After all, there are plenty of other ways to exercise.
Does Walking Help You Lose Weight?
While weight loss seems complicated, it mostly comes down to a simple equation – whether you’re using more energy than you take in. Exercise, of any type, helps to increase your calorie expenditure, which can promote weight loss.
But, is walking enough on its own? The answer depends on your needs and your situation.
At best, walking is a moderate intensity exercise. Even if you walk vigorously, you’ll probably burn fewer calories than if you go to the gym. If you’re walking slowly, you might not burn many calories at all.
Using other forms of exercise is a more powerful way to lose weight.
Still, there are a few important points here.
First, you can lose weight with walking alone, especially if you combine it with a healthy eating strategy. Indeed, diet is often more significant for weight loss than exercise is.
Second, walking is a good place to begin. It’s simple, requires no equipment, and isn’t strenuous. It’s much easier to develop a habit of walking 20 minutes per day than trying to go to the gym regularly.
You can always add more intense exercise to your routine later.
Besides, the mood boosting and mental health benefits of exercise may help with your weight loss too.
Is Nordic Walking More Powerful?
You’ve probably seen people walking around your cities using poles. This practice is called Nordic walking or urban poling – and it’s catching on fast.
The poles aren’t used for balance. Instead, walkers tend to swing the poles out behind them. When a good technique is followed, Nordic walking increases the intensity of walking, turning it into a full body exercise that is even better for the heart and burns more calories.
Such results make the practice a simple way to increase the benefits of walking.
Walking might not be as vigorous as other types of exercise, but it can still help you stay healthy and fit. It can even be the best choice in some situations, as you don’t need any equipment and walking can be great for your mental health.
The trick is to not get too caught up in the idea of 10,000 steps per day. That target is unrealistic for many people and might stop you from experimenting with other types of exercise.
Besides, most people do better by starting with a smaller activity goal. Even just getting 10 more minutes of exercise per day can do you the world of good. Why not start with a walk around the block?