Walking is simple, free and one of the easiest ways to get more active, lose weight and become healthier. It’s underrated as a form of exercise, but is ideal for people of all ages and fitness levels who want to be more active. So what are some of the main benefits of walking and how can you increase the amount of walking you do?
Why walking works
“The gym is too expensive”, “I have a bad back”, “I’ve got no time to exercise!” – does that sound like you? We know exercise is good for us, and we know our health is important too, but it can be easy to find excuses for not actually getting out there and doing it!
If you find it difficult to get active, walking is an easy way to get started because you don’t need any special equipment – and best of all it counts towards your recommended amount of physical activity, which for adults aged 19-64 is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, says the NHS.
There are lots of other benefits of walking too, such as:
- It can reduce the risk of serious illnesses
The NHS states that regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, strokes and some cancers.
- It’s ideal for people of all ages
As walking is a gentle aerobic exercise, it’s easier on the joints and helps to strengthen your stamina, muscles and bones, whilst also helping to improve your balance and coordination.
- It can lift your mood and reduce stress
Doing exercise influences the release and uptake of feel-good chemicals called endorphins in the brain, and even a short burst of 10 minutes brisk walking helps to increase our mental alertness, energy and positive mood according to the Mental Health Foundation.
- It’s free
Walking is free and is a great way to introduce light activity into your lifestyle. It encourages you to get outdoors and in the fresh air – this is a good way to boost Vitamin D intake which is important for healthy bones. Plus, when you’re walking, you’re reducing your carbon footprint by not using the car, so it benefits the environment too!
Ways to get walking
- Make it part of your weekly routine
Take a walk on your lunch break, walk the kids to school or get off the bus a few stops earlier. Go for walks with your partner, friends or family at the weekend, and try different scenic countryside routes to add some variety. The Walking Britain website has a great list of countryside walks in each region of the UK, or you can search for organised walks near you using Walking for Health’s WalkFinder for some inspiration! There are so many different ways to introduce more walking into your lifestyle and working week, and you’ll feel much better for it.
- Get tech savvy
Use apps and tools such as walkit.com which enables you to plan your walking route in over 40 UK cities, including information on journey time, calories burned and carbon saved. Using a pedometer is a handy way to monitor the number of steps you’re taking and can assist in setting goals for you, such as you taking more steps each week.
- Try power walking
According to the Department of Health, in 30 minutes the average 60kg person burns 75 calories strolling (2mph), and 150 calories walking fast (4mph), so it would make sense that the faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits! Power walking is a good way to burn calories and fit in some light exercise in a short space of time, such as your lunch break. Time your walks and try to get where you need to be quicker each time – a little competition is a great motivator (even when it’s with yourself!).
And finally, if to begin with you can only walk fast for a few minutes, that’s fine. Don’t overdo it at first – try to make every step count. Good luck!
If you want to become more physically active and you haven’t done any exercise for a long period of time then it’s a good idea to see your local GP or health care professional before you get started.