Weight training, running, CrossFit, swimming — when it comes to improving our fitness, these are some of the phrases that instantly come to mind. But we’re forgetting one of the most fundamental and readily-accessible activities: walking. “But that’s not exercise, it’s too easy,” you scoff. Don’t dismiss it just yet, because there are actually a number of surprising benefits of walking as a way to keep fit and healthy. Here are seven of them:
1. Everyone Can Do It
Got a pair of legs? Congratulations, you can take up walking! But seriously, barring injury or infirmity, anyone at any fitness level can walk. It doesn’t require any special training or equipment either. You just need a little bit of time (at least 30 minutes a day is recommended), some good weather and a comfortable pair of shoes.
2. It Can Help You Lose Weight
While you shouldn’t expect to get ripped just from walking alone, it does still have some modest weight loss benefits. In fact, a brisk walk can burn almost as many calories as jogging. But perhaps it’s better to think of it this way — any time spent walking is time you’re not sitting around idle.
3. It Reduces Stress
One of the most important benefits of walking is how it helps to elevate your mood. Any form of aerobic exercise is going to focus your mind and calm your nerves, but just taking the time to go for a stroll every day can have a major positive impact on your mental (and in turn, physical) health.
4. You’ll Live Longer
It’s true, walking can add years to your life. A recent German study of 69 men aged between 30 and 60 showed that regular exercise triggers an anti-aging process in the body that could help you live 3-7 years longer. It can even help prevent or slow the onset of some of the common conditions of old age, such as dementia or arthritis.
5. It Boosts Immune Function
One of the benefits of walking over more intense forms of exercise is how it affects your immune system. Whereas exercising too hard or for too long can deplete immune cells, studies have shown that moderate exertion can actually give them a boost. This gives you better protection against viruses, disease and infection.
6. It Can Help Prevent Back Pain
Your glutes (buttcheeks) and core are essential for maintaining a healthy spine, but these muscles suffer the most from an excessively sedentary lifestyle. They’re inactive while you’re sitting, so the less you get up and move about, the more they atrophy. Walking is a great way to engage these muscles and get them working again.
7. It’s Fun!
The phrase “no pain, no gain” is almost synonymous with fitness, but working out doesn’t always have to be an exercise in masochism. In fact, enjoying physical activity is one of the best ways to ensure you keep coming back and doing it. Even at a brisk pace, walking allows you to take in and appreciate your surroundings, or chat with a friend who’s tagging along with you.
Q: Do you enjoy walking? Where’s your favourite place to take a stroll? Let us know in the comments below.