Walking and hiking have been growing in popularity as a way to get moving for years. Perhaps one of the best reasons it is so popular is that it’s free and most people – regardless of age or fitness level – can do it! It’s also a gentle, low-impact way to get your body moving. But what are the real health benefits of walking, and how can you maximize the benefits with each step you take? Keep reading as we unpack all this and more.
10 Health Benefits of Walking
1) Helps with Weight Management
Walking helps you keep your weight in check because it burns calories. To lose weight, you need to burn about 600 calories a day more than you’re eating. An individual burns about 75 calories simply by strolling at a 2 mph pace for 30 minutes. If you increase this to 3 mph, you will burn 99 calories. Speed it up to a fast walk (4 mph) and that’s 150 calories.
2) Lowers Risk of Chronic Disease
Walking lowers your risk for disease and can slash the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, asthma and some cancers. The British Medical Journal reports taking more steps every day can help ward off diabetes. That means active walkers have about a 20 percent lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as cancer.
3) Improves Heart Health
Walking strengthens your heart health, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, lowers levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, and increases levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. It also helps keep blood pressure in check. Brisk walking for 30 minutes helps prevent and control high blood pressure, which can reduce your risk for a stroke according to the American Heart Association.
4) Helps with Brain Health and Memory
Walking can also reduce your risk for dementia by up to 40 percent. Studies show older people who walk six miles or more per week could avoid brain shrinkage and preserve their memory.
5) Promotes Healthy Bones
Walking also helps keep your bones healthy, which can help you reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis or even reverse its severity by building new bone. Because it is a weight-bearing activity, walking helps stimulate the building of healthy bones and the maintenance of healthy joints.
6) Builds Core Strength
Walking can help you tone your legs, buttocks, and thigh muscles. But more importantly, it can help you develop better core strength which will also help you support your spine and keep your adjustments longer. Remember to really focus on your posture as you walk. Before you know it, you’ll see the difference taking those 10,000 steps (or more) make in your midsection.
7) Tones Your Arms
Walking speed is determined by the action of your arms, so hold your arms at a comfortable level, bent at the elbow, and swing them backwards and forwards as you walk. When you swing them faster, you automatically speed up, toning arms, shoulders, and upper back.
8) Boosts Vitamin D Levels
Walking outside in daylight boosts the body’s vitamin D stores. This in turn plays an important role in bone health and immunity.
9) Increases Energy Levels
Walking increases energy by increasing blood circulation and oxygen supply to every cell in the body. This eases stiff joints and muscle tension. A lunchtime walk is a quick way to boost energy levels for the afternoon.
10) Boosts Your Mood
Walking can also boost your mood by releasing feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream. Studies show regular moderate-intensity exercise such as walking briskly is as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression.
How to Get More Results from Your Daily Walk
Walking is a great way to get and stay fit, but are you doing enough to see results? Using an activity-tracking app or a pedometer can help you set and reach fitness goals by increasing motivation. Some “walking apps” can even connect you to online walking communities for support and a sense of competition. But if it is results you are looking for, here are a few tips on how to maximize your walking workout and put a spring in your step.
Focus on your posture.
Making sure you maintain good posture while walking requires you to tighten your core muscles. Thankfully, it’s relatively simple to do. Focus on engaging your stomach muscles and keeping your shoulders back throughout the walk to get the whole body involved in your workout.
Get your arms movings.
Keeping your arms moving can also transform your walk into a full-body workout. How you move them is yours to play with. Start out with a simple swinging motion, take it up a level with an elbows-bent-at-90-degrees powerwalk, or throw in some bicep and tricep exercises while you walk. Once you’ve got a good routine established, kick it up a notch and add in some free weights. Keep in mind that even light weights can get heavy over time so start with one- or two-pound weights and adjust from there.
Play with the pace.
If you want to see results faster, pick up your pace! The optimum walking speed for weight-loss benefits is around 4 mph (or a 15-minute mile). If that is too fast to begin with, try interval training where you pick up your pace for shorter bursts of time throughout the walk. A good place to start is walk 1 minute fast, slow down for 2 minutes, then pick your pace back up for another minute. Continue challenging yourself throughout the walk and track your progress so you can see how quickly you and building strength and endurance.
Pick a route with an incline.
It’s no secret that walking on an incline pushes your body more. But it also burns more calories and fat! You’ll notice if you pick a route that isn’t flat, you’ll also engage more muscles as you go up and down those hills. This is also true on the treadmill so play with those incline settings to realize even more results.
Get your heart rate up with a hike.
Many states and cities have established designated walking/biking trails. These trails are designed for the needs of all fitness levels from the disabled to the casual walker to the practiced hiker. To find a trail, check out alltrails.com and search locations near you.
Join a walking club.
The easiest way to get started and to stay on track is to seek out an existing group close to home, such as a YMCA, community center, or a lunchtime group at your workplace. The leader should encourage post-walk stretches and set a healthy pace. Workplace walking groups not only promote mental and physical fitness but also increase morale. To maintain motivation, partners need to be well matched. Try to match the age range or skill level so no one feels out of place.
How Long You Should Walk Each Day
Research reveals less than half of U.S. adults get the recommended amount of physical activity. So how much walking do you need to log in a day? The Mayo Clinic recommends adults need at least 150 minutes a week of aerobic physical activity or 30 minutes of activity five times a week.
The good news is that it’s easy to start walking to a healthier you! All you need is a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothing, and a positive outlook. Just walk out the door, soak up the sunshine, and breathe.
It’s also okay to start out slow and easy. Set your timer for 10 minutes (or more), walk one direction, then turn around and walk back when your timer goes off.
Want to know more about how walking can boost your health?
As usual, it’s best to consult with your primary care doctor or AlignLife Chiropractor before you begin any new exercise routine. Schedule a chat with your local alignlife doctor today to talk about we can help you reach your health goals and live a more active, pain-free life.