Walking is a great way to exercise and has proven to be as effective as running when improving your overall health. While running is obviously more physically demanding, that doesn’t mean it’s the holy grail of cardio.
Even though walking is considered a low impact exercise, it can still be pretty intense if you want it to be. If you haven’t seen olympic walkers before, I highly encourage you to check them out on Youtube. And if that isn’t convincing enough, check out the 8 benefits of walking I’ve listed below.
1. Burns Calories
It’s no secret that moving your body burns calories. In today’s world, we spend a lot of time sitting down - at the office or on the couch. This type of sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain and other more serious health risks. Walking is a great form of exercise that can help you burn calories and reduce your risk of developing health problems.
The great thing about walking is that it’s basically effortless. You walk every day already. You walked to the bathroom, the kitchen, and the living room at least once today. So why not try going for a walk after dinner?
Need more motivation? Studies have shown that you can burn about 100 calories just by walking a mile.
2. Keeps Your Heart Strong
Walking is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular exercises, or cardio for short, are important because they help increase the efficiency of our heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
In fact, a 2009 study showed that the risk for developing heart disease decreases as you increase your amount of walking. Something as simple as 30-minute walks per day can help keep our heart performing at its best and continue to pump blood and oxygen throughout our bodies.
3. Helps Lower Your Blood Sugar
According to the American Diabetes Association, going for a 15-minute walk after each meal may be an effective way to control your blood sugar levels. When you exercise, your muscles use more glucose (the sugar in your bloodstream) to give you energy. By consistently walking or performing other forms of exercise, you could lower your blood sugar levels. Consistent exercise may also help improve your insulin sensitivity.
4. Can Boost Your Immune System
Exercising in general can help improve your immune system. This is especially important during cold and flu season (hey coronavirus). A study found that people who walk at least 20 minutes a day for five days a week had about 40% less sick days than those who only exercised once a week.
More good news. Even if you do get sick, it’s been found that people who exercise on a regular basis typically have milder symptoms and don’t stay sick for very long.
5. Eases Joint Pain
As mentioned earlier, walking is a low impact exercise which is great for people who are overweight or have back or joint problems. This is because walking can help strengthen the muscles around your joints. Strong muscles and tissue is important because it will help provide the most support for your bones.
If you’re currently experiencing joint or back pain and want to begin walking, be sure to start slow. Start with a 10 minute walk around your neighborhood and work to slowly increase the amount of time you’re walking. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise.
6. Improves Your Sleep
Walking can help increase the effect of melatonin, a natural sleep hormone. A 2015 study in Boston found that increased daily physical activity is linked to better sleep quality. This is great news because the participants in this study only averaged about 7,000 steps per day. So, the more steps you take during the day, the greater chance you’ll get a good night’s sleep.
7. Rated E
Walking is for everyone!
Young, old, new to fitness, or expert bodybuilder. Everyone can benefit from walking. You can make it as fun or as intense as you want to.
8. It’s Free (Almost)
The only thing that you need in order to start walking is a study pair of shoes. Unlike running or other strenuous activities there is no need for fancy gear. So, invest in a good pair of walking shoes and you won’t regret it!
Once you have the shoes, you’re all set to start. There’s no gym membership or equipment required. If you don’t have access to a treadmill, don’t fret. There is plenty of space outside to go for a walk. Whether that’s around your neighborhood or at a local park.
How to Get Started
Now that you know the benefits and bought a good pair of shoes, there’s nothing left to do but get started. Remember to start slow and create small goals that you want to achieve. Recruit your family or friends to join you on evening walks. The more you plan and get people involved, the more likely you are to stick with it.
If you aren’t ready to start walking as a form of exercise, you can always get a fitness tracker and track your daily steps. You can increase your walking from your day to day activities by parking farther away at your job, the mall, or the grocery store.
There are so many benefits to walking besides the eight that I mentioned above. All you need is to find some good, comfortable shoes and head out the door. Remember to stay hydrated and speak to your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.
Tiara is the author of Run for the Culture, a blog created to inspire and educate black runners on a variety of health and wellness topics. For more posts on running, health, and everything in between, visit her blog at www.run4theculture.com