Walking is such a great first step, he he, in improving your health. It’s convenient, you can do it from anywhere, you don’t need any specific gear or clothing and you have the available tools to start now. Walking is a natural activity, it’s a sustained aerobic exercise that is common for all of us, excluding those who are disabled or extremely frail.
The great thing about walking is you are completely in charge of the intensity, duration and frequency. “It is a year-round, readily repeatable, habit-forming activity and the main option for increasing physical activity in sedentary populations.”*
In today’s World where physical inactivity levels are rising, walking could be the solution to getting you on your feet. Unlike a lot of physical activity, there is little, if any, decline in middle age, so again its available for most of us. It is available to us all year round. It has the added benefits of increasing a person’s independence and social well-being. When I’m out walking, I smile at people I pass, stroke various dogs and look around taking note of my environment. Even though it can be a solitary activity you can still feel part of a community when walking. On other occasions I will be earphones in and listening to a podcast, this makes for great me time.
Did you know that there are indications that walking increases bone related strength? Walking is weight-bearing, it keeps the leg and trunk muscles strong and their joints flexible. Getting up, moving about and changing positions during the day helps your body stay healthy, your body likes variety, it doesn’t like being stuck in a chair all day.
Walking at low or moderate intensities is associated with cardiovascular benefits, it may help improve cholesterol profile, help control hypertension (high blood pressure) and as mentioned above, slow the process of osteoporosis by strengthening your bones. If you stick to a brisk pace it will provide enough cardiovascular training for most adults, think sweaty and heavy breathing.
Walking can help with weight loss and maintenance in a low impact way. Not all of us are built for running or high intensity exercise.
Getting outside and on your feet will help with vitamin D absorption from the sun, in winter in New Zealand I guarantee that most of us are walking around vitamin D deficient as we are not able to absorb enough from the sun.
I find going for a walk brings me a lot of inner peace, if I’m feeling troubled or a bit anxious, I get out for a walk and aim to stay present in my surroundings. I look for flowers and interesting buildings, I get out of my head and appreciate my community.
Walking helps improve your mood, eases anxiety and reduces social withdrawal. When I’ve been in my depression bouts, getting up and getting my shoes on to go for a walk, even though that was hard to do sometimes, really helped. During Covid walking really helped me, I got to find new places locally and even got lost in Westmere once.
Several clients mention that during the week they don’t have time to leave the office for a wee walk. While I understand, I do always think that you do have the time and if you put the boundaries in place people will respect them, though that’s a different topic. A good excuse for doing it is that walking promotes creative thinking. If you are stuck on something and sitting at your work desk, get up, get outside, move your body and I’m sure you will move towards the solution once you return to your desk.
All the different fitness trackers can be really motivating for some people. I always suggest getting a couple of weeks data before setting yourself targets, then increasing incrementally; keeping goals just a wee further out from your comfort zone.
Humans are made to move, most of us need to move more, and I’m talking move not exercise hard out. You can try and fit it into your day by walking to work or by trying to increase daily steps, so that it doesn’t become another thing you have to do at the end of each day.
Get yourself a walking buddy, dog, comfy shoes, clothes, a water bottle and you’re ready to go. Dress for the weather and start small. I’m going to say it, one step at a time team. Starting is the key… start today.
*Morris, J.N., Hardman, A.E. Walking to Health. Sports Med 23, 306–332 (1997). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-199723050-00004
Rippe JM, Ward A, Porcari JP, Freedson PS. Walking for Health and Fitness. JAMA.1988;259(18):2720–2724. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720180046031