Plain ol’ walking turns out to be one of the very best ways to boost your health. And it can be as easy as just stepping out your door to get some exercise and fresh air.
Ok, I’ll admit it…I used to think walking was for sissies. If you can’t play sports, or don’t like running, then you can just walk.
But the older I’ve gotten and the more little injuries I kept getting from running (10 years ago now), the more walking started to appeal to me.
Then I started looking into the health benefits of walking, and, wow—I found out walking is super good for us!
6 Major Benefits of Walking
1. CARDIO. According to the American Heart Association, a walk is every bit as beneficial as a run for lowering our risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
2. BONE STRENGTH. Any weight-bearing exercise is good for our bones, including walking—especially to help prevent osteoporosis. This is especially true if it’s more like hiking where you’re adding some ups-and-downs and more challenging terrain.
3. DIGESTIVE SYSTEM. Walking benefits your esophagus to your colon, and all the plumbing in-between. There’s all kinds of online articles like this one about the benefits of walking after meals for both digestion and to help keep blood sugar levels lower.
4. BRAIN HEALTH. Studies show exciting news about our brains and aging—regular moderate exercise (like walking) has been found to boost brain health in the areas affecting memory and thinking skills.
5. IMMUNE SYSTEM. Regular walking and other moderate aerobic exercise boosts your immune system and helps prevent disease, from the common cold to several types of cancer.
6. EMOTIONAL and MENTAL HEALTH. Not just walking, but walking in natural areas (as opposed to along a busy highway, for example) is good for the soul. The combination of moderate exercise and nature decreases moodiness, depression and stress. It also increases problem-solving skills, creativity and curiosity.
Are you convinced about the benefits of walking? Maybe you were before we started — often the big problem isn’t believing it, it’s doing it. Here are some ideas to start and stick with it…
How to Stay Motivated
NEVER THINK OF IT AS UNIMPORTANT. If you have to, write down the above benefits and post them on your refrigerator and bathroom mirror. These health benefits are the result of a lifestyle of putting one foot in front of the other—literally.
COMMIT TO 150 MINUTES A WEEK. Whether it’s 30 minutes 5 times a week, or 15 minutes twice a day, or 10 minutes three times a day…we can fit it in somewhere! 2-1/2 to 3 hours a week should be the minimum.
BUY A PEDOMETER or a FitBit or Apple Watch, or something to track your steps. Studies are now showing that even a daily hour-long workout isn’t enough to offset being sedentary the other 23 hours. Shoot for at least 10,000 steps a day (including your daily walk), throughout the day.
(Because I work on the computer much of the day, I actually set a timer every 30 minutes to remind myself to get up and walk around for 2-3 minutes. It also gives my eyes a break from staring at the computer screen.)
WALK WITH A FRIEND. There’s strength in numbers, especially if you need the positive peer pressure to stay motivated. If it helps to meet friends once a week, fine. If you need a walking buddy every day, great—find one. (Just don’t offset all the mental benefits by talking about negative things!)
MULTI-TASK. Many of my very best prayer times happen while I’m walking alone. Or listen to music, a podcast or audio book. But be safe—always be aware of your surroundings whether it’s traffic, other people or animals.
GET A DOG. Seriously! Mine would never say no to a walk. Having to walk the dog is another good reason to get out there and just do it. I don’t have my own dog anymore. If you don’t either, maybe a neighbor would love their dog walked!
HAVE A BACKUP PLAN FOR BAD WEATHER. Notice how I assume we’ll be walking outside? Then you get the benefit of both the outdoors and walking. But if you don’t like facing bad weather or don’t have the gear for it yet, there are other options: find a used treadmill, walk the local mall with the other mall-walkers, or get a gym membership.
So, whether it’s your primary exercise, your cross-training alternative or simply a gentler way to recover from an injury—don’t discount walking as a great health booster. It took me a while to see the light myself.