The Many Benefits Of Walking For Exercise

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Should You Walk?

Think of it like this: we are basically designed to be hunting and gathering endurance athletes that walk for miles and miles to hunt and gather our food.

Yet, in modern society, we spend most of our time sitting down. This is unlikely to be good for our bodies, potentially leading to a host of health problems.

Walking is fun, relaxing, and it’s good for your health.

These reasons, and others like them, is why making an effort to move around more and go for a walk each day is a good idea, and why, yes, you should walk.

I hope this article convinces you that heading out for a walk each day is actually a great idea, and that it motivates you to stick to your walking schedule until you start to see results.

Health Benefits Of Walking

There are several benefits of walking depending on how fine-grained we’re trying to be with our benefits, but here are the 5 benefits of walking that we thought most appropriate.

Walking Gets You Outside In The Fresh Air and Sunshine

No matter how fast or slow you walk, walking gets you outside and in the fresh air, which is good for you.

Indeed, just being outside makes you feel better, and your body gets the sunshine and higher concentrations of oxygen as well, which is important for loads of stuff.

You will find the air quality outside, particularly if you go for a walk on the beach or in a park, to be much better than the air inside your house.

And if you cook with gas, forget about it.

Walking For Weight Loss

Walking for weight loss is certainly a thing, and there are 4 main benefits of walking for weight loss:

  1. It’s very easy on the body.

  2. It doesn’t eat up your will power and the mental fatigue is extremely low.

  3. It’s easy to be consistent with. After all, walking doesn’t require that much effort and get up and go to do.

  4. It’s less hunger stimulating than other forms of cardio are prone for.  

But the benefits aside, walking for weight loss is often not quick, but the benefits are cumulative.

You’ve got to think of the calories you’re burning, which depends on your weight, the distance you walk, and the speed with which you do it (as well as things like incline, terrain, etc). 

How It Works

The way walking for weight loss works is that when you start out walking (and let’s say you’re overweight, unfit, and not used to walking), the energy required for the speed, and likely distance, are going to be pretty low, but the energy required to shift the weight over that distance will be high.

So you plod along for, say, 30 minutes, and you burn the energy equivalent of a banana, which seems rubbish, but what’s happened? You’ve got fitter, that’s what’s happened.

Every single time you go for a walk you get incrementally fitter, and before long the distance that you used to walk in those 30 minutes is achieved in 20 minutes, which means you’ve walked faster, which means you’ve burned more energy in less time.

As mentioned, it’s all cumulative, and you’ll be increasing your distance and speed the more and more you walk because you’re getting fitter.

Of course, you’re also getting lighter, which means you’re using less energy to shift your body over that distance, but it’ll be offset by the increase in speed and distance, which is a marker for your improved fitness.

This improved fitness of yours means you can walk faster, harder and further, which continues to use more and more energy.

Walking Intensity

This chain of events is reason to monitor your walking intensity.

You see, if you just set yourself the task of strolling for x distance then before long that distance and speed (walking intensity) will not be improving your fitness as it’ll be too easy for you. And since it’s too easy your body has no reason to adapt to the stress of it.

And no adaptation means no increased fitness.

To continue to get fitter and force your body to adapt you need to increase the demand you’re asking of your body.

And this is done by incrementally increasing your walking intensity.

Here are the 2 main ways of doing this:

  • Set a distance and time yourself over that distance. Your task is to keep incrementally improving upon your time.

  • Set a time to walk for. Your task is to keep incrementally increasing the speed that you walk for in that time and/or increase the distance that you do it that time.

But don’t go crazy with increasing your walking intensity and becoming exhausted and burning yourself out. Incrementally increase it. A second or two faster over the course of a week is faster, and therefore quantitative proof that you’ve got fitter.

Walking For Weight Loss Is Unlikely To Be Enough

However, all that said, your walking intensity is still going to be that of a somewhat low to moderate physical activity, so unless you’re walking a very long way and at a quick pace, the energy (calories) burned are not likely to be as high as you wish they were.

As such, you still need to watch what you eat and aim for a healthy diet, as undoing all your effort with your next meal will be a relatively easy task.

But with those things also in place, walking is an excellent, healthy, and all round good moderate physical activity that you should most definitely keep yourself involved in.

Walking Improves Your Sense Of Balance And Coordination

Walking can build and maintain lower body strength, which helps with balance, which helps against the risk of a fall, which is notable for our later years.

You don’t need to find uneven terrain to boost your balance and coordination, but you can do if you want to increase the difficulty.

Just getting in the habit of going for a daily walk will help with balance and coordination, but if you want to focus on balance more deliberately then tai chi is excellent, and standing on one leg, anecdotally, is also excellent—when you think about, we’re on one leg a lot (40% of walking), so it makes sense to be good at it!

Walking Can Strengthen Your Bones

Even though walking is only moderate physical activity and a low impact form of exercise, it still helps strengthen the body.

If you’re just starting out, a walk is all you need to start getting in better shape.

As you get fitter, consider adding additional weight or weight lifting exercises to your daily walks to continue to get stronger and help develop strong muscles and bones.

Walking Will Boost Your Mood and Fight Depression

Last but not least, exercise causes endocannabinoids to be released, which can help lift your mood and even reduce depression (1, 2,).

How hard you have to exercise for these to be released varies from person to person, but if you don’t get them, walk harder, faster or longer. The increased intensity will only be of benefit to your health—assuming you’re up to it of course, and be sure to start out easy.

Give it a try. The next time you’re feeling tired or are in a bad mood, lace up your sneakers and go for a brisk walk. It can work like a charm.

Walking Might Help Lower Blood Pressure

Yes, we know we said above that here are the 5 benefits of walking, but we couldn’t help but throw in a sixth… shoot us.

Indeed, the benefits of walking are varied, and all exercise can strengthen the heart through conditioning, but another benefit of walking is that it seems to be have the ability to help lower your blood pressure.

The effects aren’t fast, they’re cumlative again, but walking is a low to moderate physical activity at low-impact that almost anyone can do.

The Long Term Benefits Of Walking

However you cut it, the regular exercise and benefits of walking are all reason enough to do it, but as you get more into walking you’ll get stronger and fitter and will likely fancy giving others things a try, such as swimming or riding your bike.

All of which is componding upon itself and improving your overall fitness and health. Yes, it started out as just walking, but who knows where it might lead in the future.

As they say, beginning is the hardest part.

A healthy diet, regular exercise, and losing weight are some of the most effective non-pharmacological ways to improve all your health markers and potentially add years to your life. So keep walking, smiling, and staying happy and healthy!

Low To Moderate Physical Activity

Whether you’re thinking about some “15 minute walking exercise” or “30 minutes walking exercise”, there really is no right way to start walking (save for finding a pair of comfortable shoes), and you can start out on the low physical activity end or the moderate physical activty end.

Many Ways To Walk

  • Start where you’re at. Just put on your shoes and head out there. If all you can do is walk for five to ten minutes, then just walk for five to ten minutes. There’s no competition and it’s a great start.

  • Stick with it for a week and then see if you can make it to that 15 minute walking exercise that you were looking at.

You can even walk in place at home in front of your TV:

  • As you’re sitting on the couch watching TV, get up during commercial breaks and march in place until your TV show comes back on.

Feels silly? Don’t let it. This is your health we’re talking about. Besides, it only feels silly thinking about it. Once you’re doing it it’s actually pretty good fun!

Walking On The Spot Exercise

A walking on the spot exercise might sound a little strange and funky, but it’s perfectly valid and it’s good fun to boot!

  • If you’re using a service like Netflix, make yourself walk in place for 10 minutes in between episodes.

  • Or turn on the TV and challenge yourself to march in place during the entire show!

Time will fly while you’re having fun watching TV and moving!

The main thing, of couse, is to get moving. 

Build The Habit Of Walking

How to start walking is not nearly as important as getting and staying in the habit of walking. Indeed, walking each day can be a bit of a challenge, but that’s exactly what we need to do.

Build The Habit Of Walking

Habits can make things seem autonomous (like brushing our teeth), as once something is a well ingrained habit it’s no challenge to keep doing it—and this is exactly how we want to make our walking routine.

Remember, habits are formed through goal directed behaviour, and we have to basically force ourselves to continually to do whatever it is for long enough so it does become a habit.

How long habits take depend on the habit, with pleasure breaking habits being the most difficult, but basically it takes as long as it takes—it might take 20 days it might take hundreds.

But it will come, just keep pushing.

  • A great place to start is to find a walking route you enjoy. Preferably in your neighbourhood so it’s easy to get to and you can do it on a whim.

  • Taking the same route every day helps form that habit. 

  • It’s also encouraging to notice that you can walk the same loop faster or with less effort over time.

  • Other walks, such as places you may have to drive to, are good as well, but save those walks for the weekends.

Making Walking More Enjoyable

Listening to your favorite music, podcast or audio books is also helpful as it will make the time go by faster and give you something else to look forward to.

You can even use your favorite media as a way to bribe yourself to go for your daily walk.

Walk With Others

You should also consider walking with other people.

You could find a walking group in your area, or talk to a friend or neighbour into becoming your walking buddy.

Not only is it more fun to walk when you have someone to talk to, it also has some built in accountability—it’s much harder to skip a walking workout when you know that other people are waiting for you and relying on you to join them.

Pedometers & Average Steps Per Day

Setting aside some time to go for a walk isn’t always easy. We all live busy lives and, between family and work, fitting in a workout isn’t always possible.

But what if I told you that:

  • You didn’t have to dedicate a set block of time for your walking workouts?

  • You could get the same health benefits by working in a little more activity here and there throughout your day?

  • That there was a fun little gadget that helped you keep track of it all and motivated you to move more?

Of course, I’m talking about a pedometer. There’s inexpensive models as well as the branded stuff like Fitbit.

But before you head out to spend any money, check your smart phone. Many models have a pedometer built in and all you need to do is download a free app and you’re good to go.

The pedometer will track your steps and activity levels, then all that’s left is to just up the counts in order to achieve any targets you set for yourself.

  • Start your day by parking a little further away from the office and walking a couple of hundred extra steps.

  • Take a quick stroll during your lunch break.

  • Wrap up your day by walking around the park while your kids play.

It’s like you’ve gotten your exercise in without having to block out any additional time!

From these initial markers, try to get a little more active as time goes by until you hit your steps per day goal.

Moreover, keeping track of a step count or having an average steps per day target can be very motivating:

  • Looking at your pedometer and realising you’re only 2,000 steps away from your daily goal might just be the motivation you need to keep moving.

Average Steps Per Day

Whether it’s average steps per day or recommended steps per day, the amount of steps you do is really down to you, and the 10k steps a day we hear being thrown about is more about marketing than science.

Indeed, this study showed that 4.4k a day reduced risk of mortality by 40% in women over 70 years of age, and this one showed that 8k was basically enough.   

So don’t think that 10k is some magic figure, especially considering that sometimes, depending on source, it’s 15k, because it’s not magic.

However, more exercise and movement is good, and unless you’re aggravating an injury or condition (or trying to overcome extreme fatigue) then there’s no such thing as moving too much.

So if you’re feeling more ambitious than that 10k steps, go for it!

■ ▲ ●

Walking may be one of the healthiest forms of exercise (although swimming is a strong contender, too), so certainly don’t neglect the idea because it seems ‘too easy’.

Indeed, being easy is one of it’s many benefits!

But remember, incrementally increase your walking intensity over time in order to keep improving and getting fitter.

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