“Do you want to grab a quick breakfast and go for a walk?” This is a frequent question in our house. We have a wonderful trail system in our city, and there’s no shortage of places to get out in nature and enjoy a quick (or long) walk. Right now we’re not walking as much because it’s cold and I’m a wimp😁, but we’re looking forward to warmer days ahead.
I tend to think of our walks as a way to have fun, but walking can actually benefit our health in lots of ways. In fact, 150 minutes of walking each week can improve quite a few areas of our overall wellness. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Health Benefits of Walking
1. Walking is good for your heart.
Walking can benefit your heart in several different ways. For one thing, it can help improve cardiovascular fitness. That means your heart and lungs pump oxygen-rich blood throughout your body more efficiently.
Healthy blood pressure is one marker of cardiovascular fitness, and walking can help you lower it. According to the Arthritis Foundation, (3) “Post-menopausal women who walk just one to two miles a day can lower their blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks.” That’s pretty impressive, isn’t it?
2. It’s good for brain and emotional health.
What’s good for heart health is also good for brain health. As we talked about in Get Outside, spending time outdoors is associated with increased directed attention (think focus and concentration), better mental clarity, and higher levels of creativity. It may even improve cognitive development in children.
And in even better news, it may reduce your chance of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Arthritis Foundation (3), “a study from the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville found that men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than those who walked less.”
One more benefit is that walking is good for stress relief. It can help reduce feelings of stress and tension and just a short walk can help you feel better. According to Prevention (4), “research shows that just 10 minutes of walking can lift your spirits.”
3. Walking can be good for your bone health.
As we talked about in How Strong Are Your Bones, brisk walking is one of the weight-bearing exercises the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (4) describes as,“any activity you do on your feet that works your bones and muscles against gravity” and recommends for building/maintaining bone mass.
4. It can help you sleep better.
Any type of regular exercise can improve sleep, and walking is no exception. That’s because exercise can help boost the sleep hormone melatonin. Since walking regularly is also associated with reduced stress and joint pain, it’s no surprise that it can help us get more zzzs.
5. Walking can put a little ‘pep in your step’.
Over time, walking can improve energy levels. As with any type of exercise, you may experience some tiredness when you first start walking.
Over time, however, cellular changes will start to take place in your body.
According to Harvard Health (5), “Exertion spurs your body to produce more mitochondria inside your muscle cells. Mitochondria are known as the powerhouses of cells, because they create fuel out of glucose from the food you eat and oxygen from the air you breathe. Having more of them increases your body’s energy supply.”
6. It’s inexpensive.
These are only a few of the many benefits of walking. I would like to point out one more huge one — it’s inexpensive! That means it’s great for your Financial Wellness. You don’t need fancy equipment or expensive gym memberships to walk. All you really need is comfortable clothing and a pair of supportive shoes.
Options for Walking
I personally enjoy doing my walking outside, but that’s not for everybody. That’s the beauty of it though — you can do it anywhere. If you’d rather walk inside, you have quite a few options.
A lot of gyms have indoor walking tracks, but if you don’t have a membership or your gym doesn’t have a track, the local mall is a great option. Many malls open early, before the stores open, so that people can go in and walk. If you want to do it in the comfort of your own home, you can even stream walking workouts that you can do right in your living room.
Are you a regular walker? If so, what benefits have you seen from it? What’s your favorite place to walk? Please share!
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