If you’re on a mission to improve your health, you’re probably thinking about which exercises you can do to help meet your goals. You’re considering things like jogging, using the elliptical, cycling, possibly swimming, and maybe even walking.
Many pass up on walking; however, as they feel it’s too basic – too easy. How could you really benefit from something that you virtually do every single day?
The fact is, walking can be of great benefit. There are many excellent advantages to including walking in your day, so it’s something that you’ll want to spend some time thinking about. Even if you do walking along with other activities, it can help provide your body with a form of exercise that isn’t as physically demanding and stressful as some other cardio variations you might perform.
Let’s go over why this exercise is a great choice and then go over some of the benefits that it has to offer as far as your health is concerned.
The first key benefit of walking is that it’s low impact. Meaning, almost anyone can do it without worrying about suffering from joint pain or other pain that’s often associated with jogging.
While jogging and running are both excellent forms of exercise and can help you burn calories much faster and offer great heart health improvements, they do tend to be very taxing on the joints. It’s not abnormal to find people at all suffering from knee, ankle, back, or hip pain when they are running multiple times per week.
And, if you are an older individual who is suffering from conditions such as osteoarthritis, running or jogging may simply be out of the question for you. You may not be able to handle such an exercise form therefore walking is going to be a far superior choice.
Easy To Do
Next up, another benefit that cannot be stressed enough about walking is that it’s easy to do. As noted in the introduction, we all have been walking nearly since the day we were born, so it’s something that you can do quickly and easily without trouble.
There’s no learning curve to walk – chances are you already know-how, so all you need to do is get out there and put one step in front of the other. With some other exercise variations, not necessarily cardio training but say weight lifting, there is a lot more to learn such as proper form, how sets, reps, and tempo factor into the equation, and as such, so this can hold you up from getting started and in some cases, cause some intimidation. You may feel scared to begin and put off getting started because you simply don’t want to deal with the learning curve.
Walking is much more ‘accessible’ to many people then, so to speak.
Little Equipment Requirement
Which brings us to the next point, you’ll need very little equipment to do your walking. With something like elliptical training, for example, you need to have that machine there if you are going to do the exercise.
Elliptical machines don’t come cheap, so unless you have a commercial gym membership, this one will probably be out of the question for you. Likewise, if you plan to cycle. You may have your own outdoor bike, but it may not be appropriate for exercise sessions.
With walking, all you need is a good pair of shoes and some open road. Get this and you’re ready to go.
Of course, you can use a treadmill at the gym if you prefer, but it’s not necessary. Meaning, it’s not going to be a limiting factor in you getting started.
This also makes walking a much more accessible form of exercise to everyone.
The next great thing about walking is that you’ll also have the option of going uphill as well. Many think that walking is just too easy, but if that’s the case, they should try doing a steep uphill walk. You may need a treadmill to do this properly, but if you set the incline high and the speed to a brisk walk, you can get just as good of a workout as you would if you were running.
Your calorie burn will go up, your heart rate will go up, and even better, you’re going to be working the muscles in the lower body, therefore will actually receive some strength training benefits from doing uphill walking as well.
It provides a great low-impact alternative to running when you want something that is more intense but that isn’t going to put you at risk for injury.
Many runners will use uphill walking as a form of cross-training on the days they don’t want to jog or run so that they can easily give their body a rest from all that pounding.
Easy To Change Speed and Intensity
Finally, the last nice thing about walking is that it’s very easy to change the speed and intensity of walking at your own will. If you are walking outside, you just speed up as needed.
If you are on an elliptical machine or another machine, you may need to press buttons and then wait for the machine to change the speed. Again, if you are using a treadmill this will be the case, but outdoors, you’re free.
This makes it a great option for those who don’t like messing with machines and prefer to just dictate their pace on their own.
So as you can see, there are plenty of great reasons why walking can be an excellent form of exercise and one that you should consider. Now let’s look at a bit further at some of the key physical benefits it can offer your body.
Benefits Of Walking
What benefits do you stand to gain from including walking in your program plan? As you’re about to see, plenty. For some people walking can be even better than running because they will do it more often due to it being less strenuous on the body and therefore, they won’t need as much recovery time.
If you can only jog two to three days per week because the other days you’re feeling exhausted and sore and need to recover, but you can walk six days per week, the higher frequency may actually position you better for success.
Here are some other benefits you can look forward to.
While you may not burn as many calories minute per minute walking as you do running, assuming flat ground walking, if you can walk longer, your calorie burn could come up higher than that of running.
Some of the main ways that you can increase your calorie burn with walking if desired are walking uphill as noted, speeding up the pace of your walking, walking on uneven terrain, as well as considering using walking poles as you walk. Walking poles can be a great way to increase the intensity without affecting the impact.
Most people can expect to burn between 300-500 calories per hour walking depending on these factors.
Because walking is quite easy and enjoyable to do, if you are committed to doing it regularly, it can be an excellent way to help boost your weight loss results1.
Improved Heart Health
Which now brings us to the next benefit that walking can bring: improved heart health. Heart disease is currently on the rise in today’s society, so it’s becoming more important than ever that we take steps to try and combat it.
Walking can help lower cholesterol levels, decrease resting heart rate, and put you at a lower risk for cardiovascular disease as well. Research has shown that if you can walk briskly for at least 30 minutes five days per week, this can reduce your risk for coronary heart disease by up to 19%.
Decreased Blood Glucose Levels
If you suffer from diabetes or are just conscious of the fact that you need to be watching your blood glucose levels to prevent diabetes, you’ll want to be taking measures to do so. Walking can help.
If you have a meal rich in carbs and then head out for a brisk walk, this can be a fantastic way to get the body utilizing some of those carbs and help return blood glucose levels back to normal.
Likewise, if you are simply looking to improve your overall control, regular brisk walking, especially more intense forms of walking such as uphill walking, can be an excellent way to help enhance insulin sensitivity levels.
Some research is even pointing the fact that shorter, more frequent bouts of walking can be more beneficial than one longer bout when it comes to blood glucose control. So don’t ever think that a 10-minute walk is not enough. It most certainly is and will get you seeing some excellent health benefits3.
Can Strengthen Immune Function
The human body was not designed to be sedentary and when you sit for extended hours at a time, it can really take a toll on your overall well-being. Walking helps give you a boost and gets the blood circulating throughout the body.
Walking has been shown to help dramatically improve your immune system, so it may help you bounce back faster if and when you do become ill, ensuring that you feel your best at all times.
Do note though that if you choose to walk in a very cold climate, these benefits may not be so pronounced and it may actually go the opposite direction.
Exercising in cold weather can weaken your immune system so if it’s winter where you live and snow is on the ground, consider walking on a treadmill instead. All that cold air entering your lungs is not going to do your immune system any good.
Energy Boosting Effects
Ever feel that midday drag wearing you down? Almost all of us have at one point or another. It might seem like no matter what you do, you simply can’t avoid it.
Have you tried a post-lunch walk? For many, this is just the ticket to getting more energy for the afternoon and feeling better.
Walking is enough activity to get the blood moving and oxygen delivered to the muscle tissues (note a lack of oxygen delivery is often what causes people to feel tired) but not so intense that it actually tires you out doing it.
You’ll feel more energized after your walk than before, so if low energy is a complaint for you, walking is definitely a way to help overcome that.
Can Be Done With A Partner
Finally, one last nice thing about walking is that it’s very easy to do with a partner and have a conversation while you walk, therefore you’ll reap some socialization benefits from it if you wish.
Those who exercise with a workout buddy are more likely to stick to their workout program and see long-term results, so this also brings added benefits.
It gets hard to workout with a partner if you’re exercising so hard you can’t speak two words, so walking helps you get around this problem. This said, don’t let that deter you from doing some more intense sessions if you so wish. At times it can certainly be beneficial to exercise so hard you can’t speak to a partner but if you are looking to stay consistent and having a workout buddy helps with this, then walking is the ideal solution.
So definitely do give some consideration to walking as you go about your program plan. While walking may not sound as sexy as high-intensity interval training, it can do your body a whole lot of good and if you stay committed, it can help you see the results that you were hoping for from your workout program.
Shannon Clark holds a degree in Exercise Science from the University of Alberta, where she specialized in Sports Performance and Psychology. In addition to her degree, she is an AFLCA certified personal trainer and has been working in the field for over 15 years now, and has helped others of all ages lose weight, build muscle, and improve their physical performance. She’s been featured in Bodybuilding.com, Muscle & Strength Hers and Oxygen magazine.