“Walking is the easiest and cheapest form of moderate exercise. Aside from supportive shoes, it doesn’t require any specific equipment, and because you don’t need to push yourself hard enough to sweat in order to reap the benefits, you don’t even need special clothes,” Dr. Elizabeth Gardner, a Yale Medicine sports medicine specialist and a team physician at Yale Athletics.
In the short term, people who walk more have improved body composition and fitness. In the long term, more daily steps can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, cardiac events, and death.
Walking is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. Just 30 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. Unlike some other forms of exercise, walking is free and doesn’t require any special equipment or training
Walking for fun and fitness isn’t limited to strolling by yourself around local neighbourhood streets. There are various clubs, venues and strategies you can use to make walking an enjoyable and social part of your lifestyle.
Health benefits of walking
You carry your own body weight when you walk. This is known as weight-bearing exercise. Some of the benefits include:
- increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
- reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
- improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
- stronger bones and improved balance
- increased muscle strength and endurance
- reduced body fat.
Walking for 30 minutes a day
To get the health benefits, try to walk for at least 30 minutes as briskly as you can on most days of the week. ‘Brisk’ means that you can still talk but not sing, and you may be puffing slightly. Moderate activities such as walking pose little health risk but, if you have a medical condition, check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program of physical activity.
Making walking interesting
Ways to keep your daily walk interesting include:
- If you want to stick close to home and limit your walking to neighbourhood streets, pick different routes so you don’t get tired of seeing the same sights.
- If you feel unsafe walking alone, find one or more friends or family members to walk with.
- Walk at various times of the day. The sights to see first thing in the morning are bound to be different from those of the afternoon or early evening.
- Drive to different reserves, park the car and enjoy the views while you walk.
- Explore what’s going on around you, notice the sky, the people, the sounds.