The health benefits of walking: Improving your physical and mental health

May 5, 2021
4 minute read

For the past year, walking has remained one of the few accessible forms of exercise for everyone. Some of us have found a new appreciation for walking. If not, we hope this week’s blog will make you re-consider!  

Walking is the most natural, simple and accessible way to improve your overall health. It’s a low-impact, free form of exercise that can be done at anytime, anywhere, by anyone! Moreover, walking is a perfect form of activity for people who are inactive, overweight, or elderly.

The health benefits of walking are often underappreciated and overlooked due to the fact it is a ‘less intense’ form of exercise.  

However, a strong body of evidence supports a wide variety of benefits from regular walking, ranging from improved fitness to blood pressure regulation, weight loss, mental health benefits and even chronic disease prevention.  

In this blog, we discuss the important health benefits of walking and provide a handy guide to incorporating more walking into your daily life.

Physical benefits

Walking is an ideal way to boost your physical health:

-        Helps you maintain a healthy weight

-        Increases your heart and lung fitness

-        Strengthen your bones and muscles

-        Improves your stamina and endurance

-        Improves your balance and posture

Walking has also been proven to prevent the risk and aid in the management of conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers.

Mental health benefits  

Walking is also highly beneficial for your mental health:

-        Reduces stress and helps you manage anxiety

-        Improves mood, lowers and reduces the risk of depression

-        Improves your sleep

-        Increases your energy

To get the most out of the mental health benefits of walking, try walking outside in natural environments as much as possible. It’s been proven to be even more beneficial for your mental health compared to walking indoors.

Not too shabby, right? If you're looking for more ways to enhance your health, check out our blog on easy and cheap ways to eat healthy.

Walking for health: how much should I walk?

The NHS recommends that all adults perform at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity exercise every week.

In order to experience the full benefits of walking you must walk at a relatively brisk pace for it to be considered a “moderate intensity” exercise.

This varies from person to person, though a good way to assess whether you’re walking briskly enough is to look for these signs:

-        Increased heart rate

-        Faster breathing

Another way to check whether you’re walking briskly is to see how much ground you’re covering: a speed of 5-8 km/hr (3-5 miles) is considered brisk walking.  

Walking is an ideal way to achieve a healthier body and mind

How to incorporate walking into your daily life

Like any other forms of exercise, it’s best to start slowly to assess your current physical fitness. If you’re not comfortable with 30 minutes of brisk walking, do as much as you can comfortably. You’ll find that over time, your physical fitness improves, and you are able to walk for longer periods of time.

Alternatively, you can also try breaking down your daily 30 minutes of walking into smaller, more manageable chunks of 10 minutes. You’ll start to reap the benefits of walking daily in no time!

Wearing appropriate, comfortable shoes that provide adequate heel and arch support is essential.

You can also integrate walking into your daily life by making small changes, such as:

-        Walking to your local shop

-        Take the stairs instead of the lift

-        Go out on a short walk on your lunch break

-        Get off public transport a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way to your work/home

You’ll find that getting 30 minutes of walking every day is a very achievable and sustainable long-term goal.

How to make walking more interesting

Some people find that walking is not as engaging of an activity compared to other forms of physical exercise. This doesn’t have to be the case!

There are many ways to make sure that walking is af un activity that you can look forward to every day.

Here are a few suggestions:

-        Add some variety – explore new routes and paths

-        Walk at different times of the day

-        Listen to music, or better yet, an audiobook

-        Walk with your family and friends

-        Join a walking club

Using a pedometer application on your phone not only helps you track your steps and daily walking time, but it also helps you set goals and work towards achievements! We recommend the Active 10 app, which you can download from the NHS website.

For more information on walking, including guides to exercising with a disability, please check out the official NHS article: Walking for health.

Do you have any questions about walking or exercise? Our Pharmacy team is trained to offer professional, friendly health and medical advice. They’ll be happy to help answer any questions you may have.

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