American naturalist Henry David Thoreau famously said, “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees”. What a picture that paints in your head!
Walking, that simple habit of putting one foot in front of the other, is the simplest form of exercise there is. It needs no fancy equipment, no extra training, and no expensive accouterments. You don’t need any special expertise to do it or a personal trainer.
People of all ages, fitness levels, and fitness goals can get into it. It has been proven to help keep your heart and mind ticking in good working order. As little as 30 minutes a day are all that’s needed to reap the benefits.
Yet, it is something we don’t do enough of. According to the WHO, physical inactivity is currently the fourth leading cause of death, worldwide. Imagine that!
Adult humans need 150 hours of activity on a weekly basis in order to remain at a decent level of health. Developing a daily walking habit is one of the easiest ways to embrace a healthy lifestyle.
Older adults that have restricted movement, those recovering from a health issue, and therefore unable to devote much time to their physical well-being, and those in a healthy weight range but would love to spend some time out in fresh air, all can benefit from a steady walking habit.
And yet, people are struggling to get in as many as 3,000 steps a day!
Why is that? And what can we do to change this state of affairs?
How about we put down simply, all the ways walking is good for you, physically and mentally?
So. What are the health benefits of walking?
And how can it help with your physical and mental health, in the long run? Time for a deep dive.
You need no expensive gear; just get out the door! If weight loss is your goal, keep to a brisk pace. If you just like some ‘me time’, plug some tunes in, strap your shoes, and go. Your mental health will thank you. Faster pace or slower pace, whichever way you roll, your overall health will definitely show an improvement.
If you do not have the time, money, or inclination to spare towards a dedicated gym membership but definitely do not want to neglect your health, then walking is the answer.
Walking can help with a range of health conditions. Just 30 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance.
If you cannot carve out the time daily for a brisk 30-minute walk, break it up. Do it in three lots of 10 minutes or do a smaller,15-minute walk twice instead.
Joint pain? Go for a short walk.
Want to get your daily steps in? Do some power walking.
Looking for a break from intense exercise? Just get a few minutes of brisk walking while listening to your favourite song.
The beauty of this is that you could be at any fitness level and still reap the rewards.
De-stress your life
If your life is a series of stressful situations (let’s face it, whose isn’t?), then a moderate-intensity walking program a few times a week is just what you need.
Even a casual stroll around your neighbourhood can boost your energy levels, fill your bloodstream with serotonin and help melt your stress away.
Boost your brain
Did you know that people that walk regularly are at a lower risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease?
A simple walk can lift your mood and can lower depression in adults by as much as 25%! And you don’t need to get in your 10,000 steps for your mental health to reap the benefits. Every little helps, and if the least you could do is 1000 steps, well, that is useful too!
Cardiovascular disease is on the high; healthy-seeming adults seem to be getting heart attacks or worse. Even those enjoying excellent physical health are not immune to poor cardio health. Post-Covid 19, the instances of heart attack in adults seem to have gone up.
Walking is a low-impact exercise and as such, is a great way to gently raise your heart rate. These days, when there is an ever-increasing risk of heart disease, regular walking practice is an easy way to take care of your heart health.
Blood sugar and other fun things
Did you know your daily walk could have a positive impact on your blood sugar levels? Regular aerobic exercise puts you at a lower risk for developing lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity etc. Regular walking helps keep your blood sugar and your blood pressure levels in the healthy zone and keep excess weight off.
In order to motivate yourself, you could get an inexpensive step tracker. Or get a walking buddy. Or join your local walking association. Pretty soon, you will be walking your way to good health, one step at a time!
How to nail a daily walking habit?
The best way is to not overthink it. Making walking a part of your daily routine may involve something as simple as getting a 10-minute walk, post your meal. Walk inside your house after your lunch, if that’s all you can manage!
Frantic work schedule making it impossible to stick to a regular fitness routine? Make your meetings walking meetings instead, and get some aerobic exercise in!
Park your car a bit further away from your destination and walk up to it.
Ditch the lift and take the stairs every time.
While waiting for your child to get done with their after-school activity, walk around the neighbourhood instead of waiting at the coffee shop with a latte.
The best part about walking is you need nothing to do it. So just do it. If you need an accountability buddy to keep you honest, rope in your spouse, a neighbour, or a friend.
Change your walking routes so it doesn’t get boring. This also has the added advantage of keeping your mental juices flowing.
If walking outside is not a possibility due to weather conditions, lack of safe walking spaces, etc, check out YouTube for some indoor walking videos. These will make you get some aerobic exercise in, even in a tiny space!
Just tell yourself you are now a walker. And walk. The rest will fall into place!
Now that you have committed, the question arises: is there a target? What is this crazy 10,000 steps limit that everyone keeps going on about?
At The Quad, we prefer consistency over everything. So, we’d rather you do a little every day than a lot one day and then stop. We’d rather you walked 30 minutes daily at whichever time of the day you could manage, than a marathon one Sunday morning, never to lace your walking shoes again.
So, how much you walk depends from person to person: it is the amount you could do consistently without overdoing it, without overthinking it, and with pleasure.