Walking. You’ve probably done it your whole life without thinking too much about it. And while it might not sound like much, our primary mode of transport is also one of our best forms of exercise. It’s gentle on our joints, good for our heart and lung health, and takes us out into the fresh air.
Jogging and running might get more fanfare, but walking is starting to step out in front. Here’s why.
The health benefits of walking
Walking is the original weight-bearing exercise. According to the Better Health Channel, the many health benefits of walking can include:
- increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
- reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
- improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
- stronger bones and improved balance
- increased muscle strength and endurance
- reduced body fat.
There are social benefits, too. For many people, walking with a friend has become an increasingly popular form of social activity.
How to get the health benefits
The best way to get the health benefits from walking is to walk for 30 minutes a day at a brisk pace, says the Better Health Channel. Or if you have limited time, there is research to suggest that even shorter walks can be beneficial to your health1. You should be able to talk but not sing, and you might be puffing slightly.
Walking is a low to moderate intensity exercise, but if you have a medical condition it’s always worth speaking to your doctor before starting any new exercise program or physical activity.
Top tips to get more steps
If you’re looking to incorporate more walking into your life, try these tips to keep it interesting.
- Try new routes: Mix it up and explore new routes, new places and different terrains. Weekends are great for longer, more challenging hikes so make the most of them.
- Make it social: While solo walking can be incredibly good for the soul, change things up by inviting a friend or two to walk with you.
- Give it a purpose: If you’re lacking motivation, add some purpose to your walks by offering to walk a friend’s dog. Having a reason to keep walking is a great motivator!
- Make it part of your routine: Make walking as much a part of your day as your morning coffee. Try picking the same time each day, whether that’s a walk around the block at lunch or a long walk to decompress at the end of the work day.
- Use it as your transport: There really is no better way to get from A to B than on your own two feet. Try leaving extra time and walking to meet friends, or walk to the shops and back rather than driving. You’d be surprised how things like this add up.
- Be present: Use your walk to take in your surroundings. Soak in the views, listen to the sounds of the birds or other wildlife around you. When you’re present like this walking can feel meditative – give it a try!
- Up the ante: If you’re looking for a bit more intensity in your walking routine, try varying your pace, walking faster or building hills into your walking routes. You could also try carrying light hand weights.
Read more: How to walk 10,000 steps