Science shows that walking has incredible health benefits, as it flexes both your physical and mental muscles. But because it doesn’t exert as much energy as running, or even cycling, it’s often overlooked as exercise.
The fact of the matter is that walking is one of the most primal movement patterns in the history of humankind. Our bodies are designed to walk – and if we don’t, we’ll surely see the negative effects on our health. Walking engages core muscles in our legs, arms and torso. The metabolic effects of walking can’t be denied, but there are many other ways we can use this exercise form to our advantage.
Benefits of Walking
“A walk can provide just the right intensity to improve blood pressure and cholesterol, among other benefits. We usually respond to this form of lower-impact exercise with less achy joints and muscle pain, allowing longer adherence to exercise. Heart rate zones associated with walking can train your body to be efficient at burning fat, especially compared to higher intensity exercise.” – Mira Rasmussen, BS, ACSM, HFS, Exercise Physiologist
Walking is the suggested form of workout for many people, especially if you are older, have knee, ankle or back pain, or are at a higher weight. It is a lower-impact exercise that can be done for longer periods of time.
Just physically speaking, walking can have many health benefits:
- Improve fitness and endurance
- Improve cardio and respiratory health
- Reduce joint pain
- Improve posture and circulation
Taking regular walks can also reduce your risk for several diseases and health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea and high cholesterol.
But the benefits don’t end there. Walking also has great impacts on your mental health. It can improve memory, stimulate creativity, relieve anxiety and depression, boost mood and even prevent brain tissue from deteriorating. Many “ah ha!” moments can also be achieved just by going on a walk, because it engages your mind to wonder and do some of its best thinking.
Making it Part of Your Fitness Routine
If you want to get the most out of walking, here are a few suggestions to maximize your workout:
- Adjust your intensity to walk at different intervals. We burn a greater number of calories by repeatedly raising and lowering our heart rate.
- Add different movements to your walk like side lunges, crossovers and strides.
- Walk on different terrains and elevations. This will target different muscle groups and can increase the degree to which you are burning fat and calories.
- Go walking in different places to keep things interesting. You can walk on a treadmill, in your neighborhood, at a park, or even out on a hiking trail.
For more health benefits of walking, check out these articles from the Obesity Action Coalition: Walk into Weight Loss and Health and Walking Mediation: A Mindful Approach to Exercise.