Sometimes the best ways to improve your health and fitness are not the most intense or the most tiring workouts. Often in fact, these intensive forms of training can go overboard and end up causing damage if you're someone with health problems or facing advanced years. Then there's the fact that intensive exercise requires a lot of time and energy which we don't always have available to us. Sometimes 'little and often' is better and certainly less taxing.
Walking. This is perhaps the most basic form of exercise available. It's something that mostly everyone can do, that's low impact and that's entirely pleasant. And as it happens it has immense health benefits once you start making a proper habit of it.
Introducing Walking to Your Routine
All of us walk from time to time already. Chances are you will walk at least some of the way on your journey to work (even if it's just to the tube station) and you're also likely to walk on occasion when you visit the shops or when you're looking for a way to pass the time for an afternoon.
But to get the full health benefits of walking you need to do it regularly and with purpose. Even if you only walk for fifteen minutes a day you'll see marked improvements in your overall health but the more you can get the more pronounced the benefits will be. The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can easily introduce this kind of walking into your routine too – park a little way away from the shops, get off one stop early when you ride the bus home from work, or just wake up fifteen minutes earlier and have a morning stroll while it's nice and quiet. These are simple changes that will bring you great health benefits.
And what benefits they are… Here are just a few to hopefully pique your interest in walking…
Health Benefits of Walking
Fitness: Walking might not be anywhere near as intensive as jogging but it can still have a very good impact on your health if you walk far enough, often enough and fast enough. Studies show that regularly walking can help to lower your chances of heart disease or stroke, can decrease bad (LDL) cholesterol and boost the good cholesterol. It can also help you to lose weight and to improve your overall fitness by burning energy and increasing your heart rate.
Unlike some other forms of cardiovascular exercise however, walking does not place too much strain on your body. It's unlikely to trigger any kind of attach, it doesn't jar your knees or lead to shin splints and it's unlikely to lead to injury.
Creativity: Walking has been demonstrated to help encourage creative thinking and to promote the generation of good ideas. This has been shown in a number of studies and in one it was shown that even being pushed in a wheelchair through a scenic park would be less beneficial for your creative juices than walking on a treadmill in front of a blank wall. In other words, these experiments demonstrate that it really is the actual act of walking that boosts this creativity and not the scenery (though other studies have shown that nice scenery can do that too!).
Walking has other cognitive benefits too and some studies have shown that it can help to prevent dementia. This is true of any physical activity and it turns out that regular walking (six miles a week plus) is sufficient to tap into those benefits.
Mood: Walking is great for your mood resulting in the release of mood boosting hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine similar to running.
At the same time you will also find your mood improves from being outdoors, particularly thanks to the sun. This is a good way to combat 'SAD' or 'Seasonal Affective Disorder' as the nights start getting longer.
Bone Health: Just as the sun can do wonders for your mood, so too can it help to strengthen your bones. That's because sunlight stimulates our body to produce more vitamin D which in turn regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorous.
Further to this, walking also helps to prevent osteoporosis because it is a 'weight bearing activity'. In other words, it places pressure on our bones which stimulates them to increase their density. This is particularly important as you get older and your bones are liable to becoming more brittle.
Toning: Just as walking is sufficient to provide a basic cardio workout, it's also enough to give you some basic muscle toning benefits. The areas that stand to benefit most are the legs, bum and tum (women rejoice!) and especially if you decide to take a hike uphill.
On top of these areas though, walking is also useful for toning your arms and shoulders as these move too during your strolls. Take a look at the shoulders of Usain Bolt and you'll see just what the piston motion of the arms can do for you – though you'll see a much smaller change from lightly walking compared with Usain Bolt!
So there you have it, there are plenty of great reasons to go for a regular stroll and when you weigh the small amount of effort against the huge number of rewards it's hard for anyone to make a case against walking. What's your excuse?