The Benefits of Walking

Physical activity is a staple for your overall health. There are three main forms of exercise and each has its own place to help maintain health: aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. Additionally, it’s recommended to get in two muscle-strengthening activities per week.

Some people may find 150 minutes of aerobic activity to be boring or difficult to achieve. Yet walking, a type of aerobic exercise, is often overlooked.  Experts recommend and encourage walking because of its many physical, social, and mental health benefits.

Physical Health

Walking is a great form of exercise that offers many physical health benefits. Ann Green, M.S., past heptathlon world athlete, yoga teacher and fitness studio owner notes that walking does the following:

  • Improves overall fitness
  • Improves cardiac health
  • Reduces the effects of depression and fatigue
  • Improves your mood
  • Creates less stress on joints
  • Reduces joint pain
  • Prevents weight gain
  • Reduces the risk of cancer and chronic disease
  • Improves your endurance, circulation, and posture

While walking may not be considered better than running, it’s still effective. Research has found that the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease decreases similarly by performing moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running. This happens as long as you use the same amount of energy while walking as you would while running.

Social Health

Being socially connected is crucial for well-being. Walking is a great medium for social interactions and developing relationships. One study found that walking in groups in a natural environment increases psychological and emotional well-being. The research in this study found that people prefer and enjoy walking in a social setting more than they would alone. While walking with a group of people is currently discouraged because of the coronavirus pandemic, you can walk with a close friend or family member at a reasonable distance and still get the benefit of social walking.

Mental Health

Physical activity, specifically walking, has positive implications on your mental health. Exercise as simple as walking has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, stress, symptoms of ADHD, PTSD, and trauma. There is also evidence that walking can even boost memory, self-esteem, sleep, energy, and resilience.

Older individuals can find that being active may improve cognitive function, memory, and their ability to process information. Walking can even prevent brain tissue from deteriorating with age.

If you face mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, or others, you may find it more difficult to get yourself motivated to exercise. Below are a few tips on how you can manage physical activity with mental health:

  • Try to set small goals rather than big, unattainable ones. Instead of walking for an hour, try walking for 10-15 minutes.
  • Schedule your exercise when you have the most energy, whether that be in the morning, afternoon, or evening.
  • Make yourself accountable by walking with a friend or family member. This will tie into the social benefits talked about earlier.

Walking is great way to stay physically, socially, and mentally healthy. Try walking small amounts each day to improve your overall health!

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