How walking benefits your health
07 February 2022
Did you know that adding 150 minutes of walking in a week can add 3.4 years to a person’s lifespan (Everydayhealth, 2015)?
NHS England recommends that adults have at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise. If we break that down, that’s around 20 minutes a day. This could be anything from going to the gym, or going for a brisk walk.
Walking has a range of different benefits, but it’s often pushed to the side as a form of physical exercise. But, it’s one of the most accessible ways to get fitter and healthier. You don’t have to go out of your way, you could fit this into your daily routine. For example, you could power walk to and from work.
Going for walks is beneficial for both your physical and mental health, but to really experience these benefits, try to walk for at least 20-30 minutes a day as briskly as you can. If it’s too difficult to walk for 30 minutes, try to walk for 10 minutes three times a day. You can always build up to longer sessions.
So, what are the health benefits of walking?
Improve cardiovascular fitness
Walking increases your heart rate. Your heart is a very strong muscle, and to keep our muscles strong, we need to put them to work. Just like when you go to the gym to make your biceps, triceps, etc stronger. It’s the continual use of these muscles that makes them stronger.
Your bones are living tissue and become stronger with exercise. Walking involves your feet and legs supporting your weight, which makes your bones work harder and this makes them stronger.
Improve your sleep
There is no one answer that explains why walking can explain improvements in your sleep, but there are several potential reasons why. Being exposed to natural light by walking outside in the morning helps to sync with the rhythm of nature, which promotes healthy sleep. Exercise can also reduce stress and improve physical well-being, both of which could be pathways to sleeping better. Additionally, if you walk with another person, this could boost your mood which could improve your sleep.
Regardless of the explanation, adding steps into your day can be a good way to sleep longer and more soundly.
Reduce stress, anxiety, and improve your mood
Exercising reduces the levels of the body’s stress hormones and stimulates the production of endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood elevators. Walking gives yourself a chance to get away from the stressors in your life, breathe in fresh air, and get your body moving, all of which is a natural stress-relief.
Help you to be present in the moment
When you go out of your way to go for a walk, rather than just walking to and from work, it helps you to be in the present moment. You leave all your stresses and worries behind, and walk to enjoy the fresh air. It helps you to purely focus on where you are right there and now. Listen to the birds singing, look around at everything that is around you, and breathe in the fresh air. Nothing else matters at that moment.
Making walking a part of your daily routine will help you to reap the benefits. We’ve previously written about introducing healthy habits into your daily life if you’d like some more guidance.
Step outside and enjoy nature.