Most of us know that we need around 30 minutes of exercise daily. But while you might dread the gym, there are other physical activities you can participate in for premium health. You might have heard walking is a good place to start, but are walking benefits really that great?
We spoke to Dr. Haley Perlus, Ph.D., a sports and performance psychologist, about the health benefits of walking, if walking is as good for you as people say, and how to create a walking routine you’ll enjoy
“Walking is one of the most popular physical activities adults engage in, as it requires no extra equipment and can be done anywhere,” Perlus said.
Unlike the gym, walking is free and can be done anywhere at any time of the day. Whether you’re walking inside the mall or hiking in the mountains, there are many ways that walking can improve your physical and mental well-being.
And yes, walking benefits are what they’re cracked up to be. Here are just a few we talked to Perlus about:
Dr. Perlus mentioned that walking greatly reduces the risk of heart disease or strokes. In fact, a recent study showed that walking at least 30 minutes a day for five days a week could decrease your risk of coronary heart disease by 19 percent.
Another study found that those who hardly exercised were at higher risk for a stroke. Simply committing to a walk every day is one way to get your blood pumping for a healthier heart.
Fitbit Inspire 3
Keep track of your walks and heart rate.
Walking can also significantly lower your blood pressure. This process happens because blood vessels throughout your body loosen from the motion of walking to help improve your blood flow. This activity promotes a stronger heart and better blood circulation throughout your body.
Even taking three ten-minute walks per day is an excellent way to manage your blood pressure. Mayo Clinic notes that it usually takes about one to three months to see the effect of exercise on your blood pressure.
EYQ 32 oz Water Bottle
Stay hydrated on your walks with easy-to-carry water bottles
Dr. Perlus added that walking is a great way to strengthen your bones and muscles as well as your heart and its function. The exercise involves physical motion that allows your muscles to stretch and grow stronger. Additionally, this motion adds more weight to your bones, causing them to work harder to support you on your walking journey.
This activity is especially important for older adults who can develop osteoporosis, a disorder where bones lose strength and can break more easily. Staying active in your walking routine can keep your bones healthy and strong.
You can also add additional strength exercises to your walk to improve your muscles, such as lunges or knee taps.
Use ankle weights to add resist as you build up your routine over time.
Walking can also help your trim down body fat. Walking regularly can help you develop leaner muscles to burn calories.
To do this, make sure you’re walking fast enough to burn fat saved for energy. Exercise that requires more exertion will have a better effect in helping eliminate body fat. Second, the longer you walk, the more calories you’ll burn. Walking faster and for longer will increase your heart rate and breathing, helping you burn body fat.
You can also turn your daily walk into a workout. Brisk walking with motion in your arms helps you combat the extra weight to burn off fat and grow stronger.
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Strengthen arm muscles while stretching your legs.
Studies show that physical exercise can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Incorporating walking into your routine is a great way to improve your health and quality of life.
“Walking positively influences our mood, increasing blood flow and circulation to our brains,” Dr. Perlus said.
The increased blood flow and circulation positively impact your central nervous system. Going for a walk can calm your nerves and lower your stress. Simultaneously, your brain releases endorphins which trigger happier feelings.
To experience these health benefits, you’ll want to ensure you’re walking enough to really feel the full effect. Dr. Perlus recommends walking between 30-45 minutes daily. You don’t have to walk this amount all at once. Instead, break this time into increments throughout the day.
For example, taking your dog for a fifteen-minute walk in the mornings and evenings is a great way to incorporate walking into your day. You could also invite a co-worker for a short walk during lunchtime to create a new routine.
Bluetooth Headphones,Wireless Earbuds IPX7 Waterproof Sports Earphones
Listen to music or your favorite podcast on your daily walk.
Being intentional about your walking routine is the best way to set you up for success. Dr. Perlus recommends finding comfortable clothing and walking shoes to keep you moving.
She also suggests building positive habits to keep you committed to your walking experience. Find a motivating fitness tracker to keep you encouraged or switch up your route for an enjoyable walk.
“Try to make your walk as enjoyable as possible,” Dr. Perlus said. “This could mean taking a route with a good view or picking a destination with a park or shop you enjoy visiting. Doing this will help give you motivation.”
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A great pair of shoes is a must for a walking routine.
She also encouraged inviting a friend, partner, co-worker, or family member to walk with you. Why not find an accountability partner to support each other in your walking journey?
“Incorporating your social life with exercise is beneficial not only for you but for the person you’re walking with as well,” Dr. Perlus said. “You will likely forget you’re exercising because you will be caught up in conversation with your walking partner.”
There’s a wealth of evidence to prove that walking is one of the best ways to increase your physical and mental health. Walking meditations can be another great way to improve your health and well-being.