Let’s Go Walking! The Health Benefits of Walking

woman walking

Walking.  We do it everyday.  If you look around you see colorful bands adorning wrists on many people you come into contact with on a daily basis.  Maybe you’re even wearing one as you read this, frequently checking the reading to see how many steps you walked today.  But why are people suddenly in a craze to track steps?  Walking has been the simplest form of exercise since.….well, since forever.  Maybe these new cool devices have re-ignited our society to get up and get moving.  Maybe the craze is the start of a healthier world.  Let’s explore some of the benefits of walking as the latest fad in exercise. 

1. It’s Inexpensive.  

No, you don’t even need to have a fancy bracelet to count your steps.  All you need is a pair of comfortable walking shoes that provide decent support for your foot and enough cushioning for what your own body needs.  

You don’t need a gym membership.  Not even when temperatures plummet to freezing.  Have you ever been to mall early in the morning?  Check it out sometime and you will see some pretty dedicated walkers doing their laps.  Just make sure you don’t stand in their path. 

2. Opportunity to Work on Posture and Core Stability

After reading the following instructions, I want you to stop reading and take one minute to perform the task described.  Stand up and place both feet flat on the floor, hip width apart.  Roll your shoulders down and back.  Pretend a string is attached to the top of your head and it’s gently pulling you up.  Imagine pulling your belly button back into your spine.  This posture, when done correctly, is called neutral spine.  After 3-5 breaths take 10 steps. Did you notice if your posture changed or did you remain in neutral spine?  The majority of you may find that you will lose your posture when you begin to walk.  Where does it go?  It succumbs to the tight hips, back, and weak core that develops as a result of jobs that require you to sit most of the day.  Or it disappears into the lack of habit to stretch and work on your core. 

Regular walking with mindfulness on your posture will help you to more easily engage core muscles.  This will enable you to feel longer, leaner, and breathing easier. 

3. Improve Your Numbers (and not just on your pedometer)

The American Heart Association claims that walking can improve blood pressure, blood sugar, and improve your lipid profile.  Let’s first look at blood pressure.  You hear from your doctor, you see it in ads, and you read it in your books and magazines, that exercise helps lower blood pressure.  I will leave the medical explanation to the doctors and I will share with you the wellness perspective.  

When you exercise, you are releasing endorphins – the feel good hormones.  You don’t have to be a runner to experience the positive effects of physical activity.  Any physical activity that’s done for fun, leisure, etc. has the capability of generating endorphins.  We all know what happens to our stress levels when we are participating in something enjoyable right?  Stress is linked to blood pressure.  Lower your stress, lower your blood pressure and go out for a walk. 

4. Maintain Body Weight

You might be thinking, “Can I really lose weight just by walking?”  It really all depends on your physical state and where you are starting.  If you are already engaged in a regular exercise program you will find great benefit to adding a walk into your regular schedule.  If you are coming from a place where you haven’t been involved in a regular routine, you will absolutely feel and see a difference. 

For starters, if you’re engaged in any intense training program, schedule in regular periods of active rest days to allow your body to recover and to address inflammation in the body.  Inflammation can occur in the body as a result of intense workouts on a day-to-day basis without time for rest.  Keeping your body in an inflamed state is counterproductive to your fitness goals. 

If you’re new to exercise or haven’t been keeping a consistent schedule add a regular walk to your routine.  It may produce some great results on your weight management journey. 

5. Catch up with Friends or Catch up with Yourself

The great thing about walking is that anyone can go along with you.  In our busy, fast-paced worlds it can become easy to lose those connections with those people that are dear to us.  Walking is an activity that can be shared with anyone in your life.  It allows for quality time to talk and share events going on in your lives. 

Solo walks are great for the mind.  As a form of active meditation, it allows you to take a mental break from your hectic day.  Take a walk to clear your mind so you can look at things with fresh eyes. 

So how much walking should you do?  The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes five days per week.  Use that guideline as your minimum, get yourself a comfy pair of shoes, plan to find a partner or go solo, and schedule that time in consistently.  Happy Walking!