Updated: Oct 21, 2021
Whether you are a few weeks post-partum, the mom of a teen, or anywhere in-between, walking is one of the most accessible fitness activities that you can start. You can burn 50 calories during even a 10 minute walk.
There are many other benefits of walking for fitness.
Health Benefits of Walking.
According to the Victoria Department of Health, "You carry your own body weight when you walk. This is known as weight-bearing exercise. Some of the benefits include:
increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
stronger bones and improved balance
increased muscle strength and endurance
reduced body fat."
Walking is a great exercise for anyone, because it is low-impact, and something that you can easily incorporate into your day with no equipment needed.
Mental Health Benefits.
In addition to the physical benefits of walking, it can also have mental health benefits. According to WebMD, "walking regularly can help ease symptoms related to chronic mental health conditions like anxiety and depression."
Some of the mental health benefits you can experience, according to WebMD, include:
Improvement in mood
Increased energy and stamina
Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness
Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular (heart) health
Since many mental health issues are related to stress and lack of sleep, seeing improvements in those areas is a big win. This is true even if you don't have mental health disorders and are just feeling stressed out in general.
When I was working in an office, I loved my lunch time walks, because it was an opportunity to get outside in the fresh air, and away from the stressful office environment. Walking is a great way to take a break if your are working on something difficult and need to step away for a bit.
How much do you need to walk?
You can get these benefits of walking as little as 30 minutes a day. However, if you have been sedentary for a long period of time and are trying to start an exercise routine from scratch, you may want to start even smaller.
When I first started going on daily walks, I would just go around the block and then go back to my desk. If you walk so far that you are getting exhausted, that isn't doing you an good. Start off with a small, achievable goal. That way, you will be able to increase how far or how long you walk gradually over time.
The ideal amount of steps for weight loss is 10,000 steps for day. You can track your steps using your cell phone, or with a fitness tracker (Apple Watch, Fitbit, etc.). When you get your 10,000 step goal every day, then you will really begin to see results and lost weight.
How can I increase my number of steps?
According to Medical News Today, "People can increase the number of steps they take each day by changing some of their daily movement patterns. Tips for doing this include:
taking the stairs instead of the elevator
parking further away from the door at shops, work, or school
walking to lunch, work, school, or other activities if possible
taking walking breaks at work instead of sitting in a break room
When I first started tracking my steps, I did the "take the stairs challenge" as part of a fitness program for my job. I worked on the 14th floor of an office building, and by the time I walked up all those stairs, I was exhausted. So after that I just took the stairs down for a while, until I had more energy.
You can also practice walking up and down stairs at home, if you have them. If you walk up and down a couple of extra times a day, that can be great exercise too, and less tiring.
Also, walking on an incline in general will burn more calories than walking on a flat surface.
If you live in a downtown area, you can walk up and down steps of buildings during your walk. I did this when I walked from my office. I found several buildings with a lot of steps and incorporated walking past them, so I could go up or down the steps, every day. It doesn't have to change your route, it just makes you get a little bit more steps going where you always go.
Also, if you are taking a bus or metro to work or school, you can get off one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way in order to get more steps.
There are many easier ways to incorporate more walking into your day once you are actually thinking about it, these are only a few suggestions. You can get creative with it, and figure out what works best for you.
How fast should you walk?
Medical News Today suggests that to maximize your weight loss, you should walk "briskly," or at a fast pace. It should be a little bit slower than what you would be going if you were jogging.
When you are first starting out with walking, just walk at a pace that is a bit faster than your usual walk. Imagine if you are in a hurry getting to the bus stop, or running a little bit late for an appointment and use that pace.
What has worked for me to create a fast pace while walking is to listen to upbeat music. Then, I walk in time with the music. I usually use some kind of club mix so that I end up walking pretty quickly.
Walking can be social.
You can meet up with some friends a couple of times a week, you can go and walk together and help keep each other motivated. You could even walk to a park, or to get a coffee together. It's a bonus if you have same age kids, and you walk them to the park for a play date. That way, you can get the kids out of the house too.
If you don't live in a neighborhood with anyone else that you want to walk with, it could be a way to meet people. Some fitness apps let you join teams to compete and track your steps, so you can get social that way too! Social apps are also a good way to find hiking or walking trails in your area that you may not have known about, and read ratings of them.
Also, if you are going on walks every day in your neighborhood, you may notice others doing the same. If you see the same three ladies walking every day, that may be a great way to make new friends with some healthy habits.
When you go for your daily walks outside, you are getting the additional benefit of being in the sun.
Have you ever noticed that sitting outside in the sun can make you feel relaxed and happy? Sunlight has many health benefits that you will be soaking up too.
According to Healthline, "Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused." Additional benefits include:
Helping Anxiety and Depression
Help with Panic Attacks
Building Strong Bones
Healing Skin Conditions
Helping with Autoimmune Conditions
With all these benefits, slap on your SPF and go on your walk outside today!
Get Rewarded for Walking.
These days, there are a ton of apps that reward you for walking too! I started off with an app provided by my insurance company to track my steps. If I get up to a certain amount per day, I can earn a free Apple Watch. They sent me the watch at the beginning of the program to track steps, so now I just have to meet my goal each month, or make a payment for the watch.
There are other apps like Achievemint or HealthyWage that actually pay you to track your activities. If you meet your goals, you can win a prize. The amounts vary, but it is a nice incentive to keep you going when you are feeling blah.
There are many great benefits to adding walking to your daily routine. It is a great easy exercise that you can start with right away, and at no cost! With all these benefits, I hope that you will want to start a new walking program to do something good for yourself today!
If you have any questions you would like me to answer, or other topics you would like me to cover in the future, please let me know in the comments. I always look forward to hearing from you!
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