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Harnessing the power of walking: 5 ways it can benefit your health

Harnessing the power of walking: 5 ways it can benefit your health Harnessing the power of walking: 5 ways it can benefit your health Harnessing the power of walking: 5 ways it can benefit your health

Modern life can often feel very sedentary; we spend a lot of time sitting looking at screens, sitting on public transport, or maybe even sitting in cars during journeys that – if we’re totally honest – may not actually have required a car.

There is, however, a powerful and enjoyable form of exercise that is always readily available, and offers a range of benefits for both our physical and mental health: walking! From improving your heart health to boosting your mood, here are five ways in which incorporating walking into your daily routine can significantly benefit your overall wellbeing.

Steps towards a healthy heart

Walking is an excellent form of exercise because it can have a considerable positive impact on your cardiovascular health while also being a gentle, low-impact activity. Having a regular walking routine helps strengthen your heart muscle, which improves its ability to pump blood efficiently around your body. This, in turn, improves circulation, which can help to lower blood pressure, thereby decreasing your risk of heart disease.

Furthermore, if you do your walking at a brisk pace, this will raise your heart rate and encourage the growth of new blood vessels which help your cardiovascular system to function more effectively. So working towards a healthier, stronger heart can literally be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.

On the way to weight management

If you’re struggling to keep your weight under control, walking can play a significant role in helping you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. It’s not an intense exercise, so it won’t burn as many calories as running, for example, but regular walking will still bump up daily energy expenditure and contribute to your reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. On top of that, walking builds lean muscle mass which boosts metabolism and helps your body convert nutrients into energy. And because walking is such a low-impact exercise, it’s a sustainable way to stay active for people at any level of fitness.

Getting your joints moving

Some people mistakenly believe that exercise could make pain in their joints worse; in fact, the opposite is true – walking is actually great for joint health. Walking regularly reduces stiffness and increases flexibility by helping to lubricate joints, and getting moving increases the strength of muscles around the joints, providing them with better support. The low-impact nature of walking means it places very little stress on joints, so you’re not at risk of injury or wear and tear like you might be from running. This means walking is an ideal form of exercise for those who have arthritis, or are simply looking to keep their joints in tip-top health.

Walk more; live longer

The fact that walking regularly can help you live longer is well documented. Any regular exercise – including brisk walking – has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. So by taking steps to improve your general health and wellbeing, it’s very possible that you could be setting yourself up for a longer life – with some studies showing that walking as little as 11 minutes per day could prevent one in ten early deaths. Furthermore, walking helps keep your mind sharp as you age, helping to ensure a better quality of life by laying the groundwork for improved cognitive function in your later years.

A path to happiness

Walking is not only beneficial for your physical health – it’s also a great boon for mental health. The activity of walking is known to release endorphins which naturally improve your mood, causing a decrease in stress, anxiety and even, in some cases, the symptoms of depression. The combination of walking rhythmically and communing with nature can be very calming, as well as providing an opportunity to clear your head, engage in mindfulness and obtain some perspective on issues that might be troubling you. So whether you’re ambling along gently or opting for a brisker journey, you will almost certainly find that you’re feeling more relaxed after a walk than you were before it.

How to start - and how to keep going

Developing a successful walking routine is all about setting goals, scheduling regular walking sessions, varying your walking locations and walking a consistent amount each week spread evenly across a few days. All of this helps you get into a healthy habit that ensures you will have a sustainable schedule you can stick to well into the future.

It’s perfectly easy to keep tabs on and coordinate all these elements yourself, but alternatively you can get involved with an organised walking group that will provide and track all of these variables for you. For example, parkrun provides a huge variety of 5km routes all over the world every Saturday morning (and Sunday for Juniors), all of which are easily searchable and as welcoming to walkers as they are to runners.

The only thing left to do is take measures to ensure you get the most from your walking routine: stay hydrated; pay attention to how your body responds to your exercise and adjust your intensity if necessary; invest in comfortable footwear that will prevent discomfort and injuries. And last but not least, don’t let a blister get between you and your walking routine – make sure you’re always carrying your trusty Compeed!