You may not think of walking as much more than a way to get from point A to B. As humans, it is our primary method of movement, but much less involved and less enjoyable than other activities we routinely engage in, so it’s not hard to overlook its importance beyond the immediacy of transportation. However, walking, just like any movement, is a form of exercise, and because it is something so simple, we should take advantage of it more often. Walking, even slowly, or for short periods of time offers various benefits that become more important as we age.
A French study revealed that waking was significantly beneficial for adults over 65. This in-depth 12-year study demonstrated that even 15 minutes of walking daily was enough to reduce the rate of mortality by nearly 25%. This alone is a great benefit. Needless to say, this benefit grew dramatically for those who were regularly more active for longer periods of time. This information reaffirms the knowledge that regular exercise is important for health, more important than medicines and other treatments. At a minimum, adults should generally work to get in 150 minutes of at least moderate exercise every week.
As mentioned earlier, people take walking for granted because it is simple and necessary (for transportation). They are not at all aware of the benefits that come with walking, and therefore in today’s fast-paced world, miss out on any walking that isn’t absolutely necessary. However, walking, despite popular opinion, qualifies as aerobic exercise, which means that it will stimulate the respiratory rate, as well as that of the heart, in order to accommodate the allocation of additional oxygen to muscle tissue. You might expect that it takes vigorous exercise to make this happen, but it doesn’t. Any pace works.
Still, if you would like to get the most out of your workouts, or stimulate aerobic benefits further, you will have to move faster, and longer. If you increase your pace, extend the duration of your workout, walk (or run) across more difficult terrain, such as a sandy or rocky path, or uphill, you can increase the aerobic benefit that you gain. This, in turn, means that you’ll need more nutrients to accommodate your efforts. Fat is burned to produce energy, and this is given to the muscles, along with the building blocks to make them stronger and more effective.
A stronger, healthier body is, understandably, less prone to illness than one that is weaker. A habit of regular exercise makes the body stronger at every level because it must evolve to meet the challenges of the exercise. On the contrary, a body that is not challenged due to leading a sedentary lifestyle may malfunction due to ‘sedentary death syndrome.’ Essentially, you can think of it as a catalyst for a number of other chronic illnesses and diseases to wreak havoc on the body, therefore leading millions of sedentary seniors to a premature death.
Even the smallest increase in time spent walking can have positive effects. In fact, in 2016, a study was conducted on obese children. A mere 45 minutes of daily walking, five times a week, was enough to make a difference in their lung capacity, increasing it in six weeks. When it comes to adults and maintaining regular workouts, the use of interval training (beyond high-impact aerobic exercise, can boost health and fitness. It’s as simple as alternating one’s walking pace between a faster pace and a slower pace, and ultimately it yields better results than moving at one constant rate.
Nature lovers will be pleased to know that walking outdoors can have a positive effect on one’s mental health; believe it or not, physical exercise does have an effect on the brain, memory, and it’s cognitive powers. This is because a nature walk has the added advantage of being able to prevent the stress brought on by electronics, ultimately leading to less depression, and therefore, and overall higher mood. But that’s not all that nature has to offer. In fact, if you get your outdoor exercise in during the daytime, the sun’s rays can fortify your body with Vitamin D.Related: Symptoms and Risk Factors of Vitamin D Deficiency
The acquisition of Vitamin D from the sun is important because, apart from a few select foods, namely dairy products, very little foods in the human diet include Vitamin D. As you can imagine, most people simply don’t get enough of it in their diet, which leads to a need for supplements to combat deficiencies. However, even if you decide to skip that outdoor exercise, you’re not missing out on everything. Walking, in general, can provide these benefits; a natural outdoor environment is slightly better than 45 minutes on a treadmill, but the latter still leads to increased mental activity.
Those with exercise experience will note that too much of anything is a bad thing- that overworking your muscles can cause significant damage to the body, setting progress back by weeks. However, moderate levels of exercise contribute to a stronger body overall. This means that regular exercise performed correctly and without too much strain can lead to a reduced risk of injury. Walking is one of the easiest and safest ways to get there by strengthening your joints, bones and connective tissue via the increased nutrients of aerobic stimulation. Walking provides other benefits to the body as well, for example:
The chances of developing hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stroke are lessened by regular walking, according to the American Heart Association. In general, 30 minutes of exercise, for a total weekly of 150 minutes of exercise, is the minimum goal to shoot for. This allows the body to reap the full reward of regular exercise but also avoids overtaxing the body, which could lead to injury. If it sounds like a lot to swallow, don’t panic- you don’t need to complete the exercise all in one sitting. As long as it all gets done, you’ll benefit appropriately from your efforts.
Speaking of effort, regular walks as exercise can also contribute to health by helping a person obtain a higher quality of rest and recovery at night. According to The Sleep Foundation, even a moderate level of aerobic exercise, such as walking, can make it much easier for people to fall asleep, as well as improve the quality and duration of said sleep for those who suffer from insomnia. This comes as a significant advantage over those who did not exercise prior to attempting to sleep.
The results regarding the link between walking and health, cardiovascular and otherwise, are not limited. Over 11 years, an analysis of studies from seven different countries identifies that walking can reduce the risk of mortality up to 32%. It may surprise you to know that what qualifies as regular exercise is quite easy to perform. Just 6 miles or so at 2 mph on a weekly basis will help you protect your body from any number of serious, often chronic diseases. Most individuals walk faster; spreading that six miles over the week also amounts to under one mile a day.
Walking is the workout that most people are capable of. It doesn’t require much in the way of equipment to do, it can be done just about anywhere, and it’s something we’re already doing every day, at least a little. All in all, it shouldn’t be too hard to amp it up a bit and reap the full benefits of exercise from walking more regularly. While it is true that not all of us are capable of more strenuous exercise, such workouts are not necessary for good health. Walking regularly and effectively can also make that happen.Related: This Exercise Is the Closest Thing to a Miracle Drug That We Have