Walking is one of the easiest forms of exercise and the health benefits are endless.
Walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise. It’s simple, free, and one of the best ways to get more active, become healthier, and lose weight without too much effort.
What are the main benefits of walking?
Strengthen the heart – Based on a meta-analysis, Zheng and colleagues estimate walking for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week can help reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by 19%. This risk will reduce even more when you increase how long you walk for, and the distance you cover each day, or the intensity at which you walk.
Burn calories – Burning calories is essential for weight loss, which is what makes walking (especially brisk walking) such a great and easy way to get more active. Your calorie burn will depend on several factors, including walking speed, the distance you cover, your weight, and the terrain you’re walking on (uphill is better than flat for calorie burn).
Ease joint pain – Walking strengthens the muscles that support your vital joints, it also provides benefits to people who are particularly suffering from arthritis as it reduces pain through lubricating the joint through muscle activity.
Boost immune function and energy – Walking can help reduce your risk of developing a cold or flu as it helps to boost your immune system. People who walk, on average, have 43% fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections, and if you do get sick, your symptoms are often lessened. Going for a walk when you’re tired, rather than grabbing a cup of coffee or energy drink, can be more effective in boosting your energy levels, as it increases oxygen flow throughout your body and increases ‘feel-good’ endorphins.
Improve your mood – Walking is a great way to improve your mental health as it can reduce anxiety, depression, and overall negative outlook. It also helps boost your self-esteem, which is great for confidence and an overall great mood.
Extend your life – This should be a motivator! Walking at an average pace compared to a slower, dawdling pace, reduces the risk of early death by 20%. This is due to increased cardiovascular health as you’re keeping active.
How to Keep Motivated with Walking
Keeping motivated is something that many people struggle with, especially when work and family responsibilities can serve as a distraction to taking care of yourself. The easiest way to make sure that you’re staying active is to turn walking into a healthy habit, and you can do this by thinking of how you can include walking in your daily routine. Here are some ideas:
Walk part of your way to work, shopping, or community activities. Park further away from your destination.
Use the stairs instead of the elevator more often, whenever possible.
Leave your car behind for short trips.
Try and catch up with friends through exercise, suggest a walk rather than a trip to the coffee shop, or you could walk to and from the coffee shop!
Make a habit to go for a walk after lunch or dinner. You'll avoid that post-meal lull, get an energy boost, and sleep better.
If you’re in pain and this is keeping you from walking and other activities, and you would like to talk to us about getting some help, some specialist advice, or if you are looking for answers, remember we are always here to help you. We are safely offering free in-person and phone consultations. Easily set up an appointment here: https://www.thegrpt.com/events-and-offers
Dr. Ashley Bertorelli, PT and Founder of The Green Room Physical Therapy
Clifton Park & Troy