Walking’s massively underrated! It’s one of the simplest and safest forms of exercise for improving your overall health and highly recommended by our physios at W5.
Here’s more on how walking keeps you in tip top shape and how to get started on walking for exercise.
Why walking’s good for you
Physical exercise doesn’t need to feel like hard work. Nor does it need to be highly technical. Some of the best ways of working out are those we don’t even realise we’re doing. If sweating at the gym, on the running track or in a class is just not your thing, why not try walking as an alternative?
There are plenty of benefits…
- It’s low impact
If you’re recovering from an injury or illness, or are not used to exercise, a high impact or strenuous workout is probably best avoided. But that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise at all. In most cases, staying completely inactive will have a negative effect on your health (but always discuss that with your physio or GP first if you’re in a period of recovery). For most, people, if you’ve been unwell or have an injury, one of the best ways to keep moving is to head out for a gentle walk.
2. It builds muscle and strengthens bones
Regular walking will build muscle and strengthen bones. Chances are, you’ll notice a change in your body with any regular exercise and walking is no exception. As a weight bearing activity it’s perfect for improving muscle tone and bone health, but as walking also assists with balance it further helps in preventing falls that can lead to strains, sprains, or fractures.
3. It helps you lose weight
Did you know that just a 30-minute walk, when done at a brisk pace, can burn anywhere between 100 and 300 calories? Walking’s therefore a great way to lose or maintain weight. If you’re looking to shed some pounds, or feel like you’ve overindulged, why not schedule in some sessions on a treadmill or out in the open air?
4. It reduces stress and tension and improves sleep
Walking’s a great way to relieve stress and tension. When you walk, feel good hormones called endorphins are released into the body and taking a walk with friends is a great way to enjoy some company for lifting spirits too. In turn, reduced stress combined with increased exercise are known to enhance sleep.
5. It boosts energy levels
With stats suggesting that going for a walk may increase your energy better than a cup of coffee, why not give it a try? A rise in oxygen flow throughout the body is said to be responsible for enhancing energy levels, along with a rise in energy-boosting hormones including cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. So, next time you’re feeling tired, why not take a stroll around the block?
6. It prevents disease and strengthens your immune system
Regular exercise, and even gentle walking, is one of the best preventatives of problems such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and even cancer. And because exercise increases blood flow, it encourages the production and circulation of immune cells which fight against everyday viruses and bugs.
7. It improves cardiovascular fitness
If you take up regular brisk walking, or challenge yourself to regular uphill hiking, for example, your cardiovascular health will improve. If you’re fit enough to push yourself a little faster, or a little further as you become more well-practised with walking, you’ll start to see the benefits and increase your levels of endurance.
Tips for walking safely
While the risks involved with walking are relatively low, it’s always best to consider a few precautions. Here are our top tips for taking good care of yourself when giving it a go.
Walking’s no different to undertaking any other exercise. A warm-up is important for preparing your body, gently increasing heart rate, loosening up and preventing injuries. Our physiotherapists can recommend exercises that are perfect for warming up before a walk.
Plan your route
Always avoid unsafe routes with uneven or slippery surfaces. And if heading out on a long and remote walk it’s best to tell a friend or family member where you plan go and how long you expect to be.
Wear the right gear
As with any exercise, having the correct gear is important in avoiding injuries. Aim to invest in a pair of trainers or walking shoes designed especially for this kind of exercise. If walking outdoors, make sure your footwear is waterproof. Layers of clothing are ideal for walking so that you can add or remove items depending on your temperature or changes in the weather. Remember sun cream in hot weather and to wrap up when it’s cold.
Water is essential to peak performance with any form of exercise. Aim to drink water before you walk and consider taking a bottle with you to sip throughout.
Consider your posture
Think about how you’re holding yourself to walk. Are you relaxed and avoiding hunching? Aim to keep your chin up and have your arms swinging loosely by your sides. Again, our physios can all advise on good walking technique.
Make sure you end your walk with a gentle stretch, in the same way you would following any other kind of exercise.
Thousands of people swear by walking as one of the best ways to keep them fit, healthy and active. Backed up with lots of scientific evidence, and the sign of approval from our physios at W5, why not include regular walking in your fitness regime?
Start slow and steady and build up to more vigorous or lengthy walks once you’re getting better at it. If you’d like advice on how to walk safely for exercise, or on your technique, our physios can help. Book an appointment to learn more.