Walking. It’s low impact, requires little equipment, can be done at any time of day or in any weather (though sleet, rain, or snow aren’t as pleasurable), can be done at your own leisure, and it’s FREE!
May is ‘National Walking Month,’ with the goal of promoting walking as a way to improve people’s mental and physical health, as well as to keep connected with your community, making us feel less lonely and alone.
We’ll look at the benefits of walking for our physical and mental health, how often you should walk, and various apps and groups to help keep you motivated to make walking a daily part of your routine, improving your overall health and wellness.
6 health benefits of walking
Everyone can benefit from walking, but those who are overweight, elderly, or haven’t exercised in a long time can do so without the worry about the risks associated with more vigorous forms of exercise. Daily walking helps strengthen bones, lower excess body fat, improve cardiovascular fitness, and build muscle strength and endurance.
- Calms your mind – A 20–30-minute walk in nature can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol by 10%. If you experience depression, regular exercise can help you feel better, and it is especially beneficial if you have mild to moderate depression.
- Helps prevent heart disease and stroke. A daily 30-minute walk can help you avoid significant problems, such as coronary heart disease, by decreasing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and boosting your blood circulation.
- Controlling diabetes. Research studies have shown walking to be beneficial in lowering blood glucose levels and so improving diabetes control.
- Can help arthritis. Exercise has been shown to help reduce arthritis pain, and a 30-minute daily walk can help reduce joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation. It can also aid in the prevention of osteoporosis and the reduction of bone loss.
- Helps you to maintain a healthy weight. Walking is very effective for toning your legs and buttocks as well, which is always a win, win situation.
- Reduces dementia risk. Regular physical exercise not only benefits general health but is also one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia. According to a new study, walking 4,000 steps each day may cut the incidence of dementia by 25%.
How much walking should you be doing?
You can greatly enhance or maintain your general health by walking for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Even short walks taken more frequently can be useful if you can’t achieve 30 minutes each day. Walking with others can turn exercise into an enjoyable social occasion.
The NHS recommends that adults aged from 19 – 64 years should aim for 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of weekly exercise. Find out more here.
Tech to keep you motivated
You’re going to carry your phone with you when you go walking, so make it work for you by downloading apps that allow you to find new hikes or routes in your region without worrying about getting lost. You can also keep track of how many steps you’ve taken, how many calories you’ve burned, and other useful health data.
You can explore and experiment with the apps listed below, but keep in mind that this is not a complete list, so ask your friends and family what they use and find useful.
- MapMyWalk – free to download, have to pay for a premium subscription. It tracks your steps, distance, and pace. Tracks walking routes and suggests new ones.
- GoogleFit – great for Android phones. Has its own activity-based goal-tracking system and recommendations based on a partnership with the American Heart Association.
- GoJauntly – a great app for bringing the fun into walking, helping you uncover new routes, as well as nature and city trails. You’ll be able to find walks based on your location and simple photo guides help you navigate with info pointing out things of interest and places to eat and the nearest loo.
- FitBit – free to download but have to pay for a premium subscription. Fitbit may be most known for its wearable fitness tracker, but its app also allows you to measure steps and has a great online community for support.
There are loads of walking groups you can join to get you motivated, meet new people and also find new walks with company. You can visit Time Outdoors and Country File have a great article on all the different walking groups available in the UK.
So, embrace the great outdoors and walk your way to better health.