Walking: Why This Simple Exercise is So Good for Your Physical and Mental Health
You are not alone if you feel like you are struggling to get regular physical exercise into your routine. According to the CDC, less than 50% of us get enough aerobic activity to improve our health. And it’s easy to understand why—we hesitate to invest in gym memberships, or we feel self-conscious working out in group settings, so we just…don’t.
And that is what makes walking such a wonderful fitness option for so many people. It is 100% free. It requires no membership. All you need is a pair of sneakers and you’re good to go. Simply open your front door and move.
But, for those of us who lived through the Biggest Loser and 30-Day Shred era of high-intensity fitness, many are left wondering if walking is aerobic enough to affect real change.
The short answer is…hell, yes.
Today we’re going to highlight the physical and mental benefits that walking can provide. Let’s dive in!
What are the physical benefits?
Walking helps you maintain a healthy body weight and reduces body fat.
One of the most significant health benefits is the fact that walking can help prevent and manage health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer.
Walking improves cardiovascular fitness and strengthens your bones and muscles.
It’s a great way to improve muscle endurance and increase energy levels.
Walking improves balance and coordination and can strengthen your immune system.
It also boosts your metabolism and reduces your risk of developing osteoarthritis.
But what about mental benefits?
Don’t underestimate the benefits regular walking has on mental health, including:
Improving your mood and comprehension
Boosting your ability to retain and remember information
Improving the quality of your sleep (and who doesn’t need that?)
Reducing stress and tension
If you have access to a treadmill, you can absolutely get your steps in while indoors (and treadmills can be a lifesaver during inclement weather!) but try to enjoy a few walks in the great wide open. Immersing yourself in nature and exposing yourself to sunlight and fresh air can do wonders for your mental health.
And, walking with a friend or two is a great way to enjoy social interaction while improving your health.
Here are a few tips if you’re just starting.
Take it easy – No one says you need to go out and walk a 10K on your first day. Shoot for 30 minutes and build from there. According to the CDC, you should aim for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.
Track your progress – It’s easy to forget how much hard work you’re putting in, so use a fitness app or even a dry-erase board or notebook to track the frequency and length of your walks. You’ll be amazed how quickly those steps add up!
Change things up – We’re often creatures of habit when it comes to working out but try to change up the location of your walks. Forgo your neighborhood for a local park or hiking trail and look for options with varying terrains like hills and stairs to mix things up.
Don’t let this humble activity fool you—it really is possible to walk your way to better health!