“When vigorous-intensity exercise sounds like the last thing you want to do, take a walk instead!”

Health Benefits of Walking

I DID NOT want to work out today. I had the hardest time waking up, I’m still groggy after my morning cup of coffee, and my body’s sore from work the last few days.

But I knew I needed to get a workout in. I didn’t exercise yesterday, and I really don’t like to miss two days in a row. Plus, I have the time today.

So no excuses!

What I can modify, though, is what kind of exercise I do. Since I have low energy but more time today – and because it’s a cool 77 degree morning in the middle of a Texas summer – I went on a long walk!

My dog loves getting outside too, so I put her puppy harness on and we got in a brisk 45 minute walk! Brisk because she’s a nimble little speed demon who I have to fast-walk to keep up with. She’s a perfect walking companion!

I’ve mentioned it before, but as a former cross country runner I used to have a hard time counting anything other than a run as exercise. In the past, I never would have considered my walk today a workout. But obviously that was a ridiculous misconception.

Walking is good for us for so many reasons, and today I’m going to tell you why!

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Health Benefits of Walking

Provides an excellent workout

Contrary to my former belief, walking provides us with a wonderful workout. Like with any sort of aerobic exercise, it too can help decrease your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It can also help you manage your blood pressure and strengthen your bones.

Walking is also a great way to achieve weight loss and weight management. While you may not burn as many calories as with jogging or another form of vigorous activity, you may be able to walk for longer, making it just as beneficial for you. An article from Harvard Health Publishing also reveals that walking is linked to reducing the effects of genes that promote weight-gain.

That same article discusses how walking has also been linked to decreased breast cancer risk, improved immune system functioning, and decreased unhealthy cravings. Research studies have also found regular walking has a connection with decreased progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The health benefits of walking go on and on!

Easy on the joints – great if overweight!

Unlike running, walking is much easier on the joints. While it’s weight-bearing, it’s low impact. This makes walking an ideal exercise choice for pregnant women, overweight individuals, older adults, and those with prior lower body injuries.

Can be done anywhere

One of the best things about walking is that it can be done wherever you like! You can go walking around your work building during your lunch break. Got a park nearby your home? Head over there! Pouring outside? Walk inside a nearby mall or large store, such as a Walmart or Target. Or on a treadmill!

There’s pretty much always somewhere you can walk. You can even bring young children along in a stroller!

So much easier to convince yourself to do

Does 30 minutes on the stationary bike sound just plain awful? Simply go on a walk instead!

There’s something about a walk that sounds so much better on those slow, groggy days. While it may be less vigorous than some other forms of exercise, getting out on a walk – instead of skipping your workout all-together – will be way more beneficial for you.

So struggling to get out the door? Go on a walk instead!

Things to keep in mind to have an effective walk

Time

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. They also say that anything that raises your heartbeat counts! (Just as a note, if performing vigorous-intensity exercise instead, they then recommend at least 75 minutes per week.)

Keep in mind, though, that these are the general guidelines. If you’re looking to lose weight, you should aim for closer to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.

It’s best to keep your bouts of walking as brisk and continuous as possible. For example, walking without stopping for 30 minutes 5 days a week is an excellent way to break down the 150 minutes. And if you’re trying to lose weight, you could do two 30 minute walks at separate times during the day.

But if 30 minutes seems daunting right now, either due to your current fitness level or a busy schedule, start with less – say, 10 minutes – and work up from there.

Walking companions

Walking is often more fun with a buddy, whether human or canine. My only bit of advice with dogs, though, is beware of the sniffers. If you have a dog that wants to stop every few feet, you won’t get the all the health benefits of walking continuously.

Only bring your dog along if they’re up for a brisk pace!

Stay safe

While walking is ideal pretty much anywhere, you need to make your safety a priority as well.

Keep the weather in mind and adjust accordingly. If it’s really hot and humid (as it often is this time of year in Texas), try walking during a cooler time of day. And if it’s raining heavily, opt for walking inside instead.

Be sure to stay hydrated before, during, and after your walk. If you know you’ll be out for longer than 30 minutes, consider bringing a water bottle along.

Be aware of your surroundings. If you go to a park, let someone know where and when you’re going, or bring a friend along with you. Don’t go alone when it’s getting dark out. If walking in a neighborhood, stay on the sidewalks or as close to the side of the road as you can. Don’t blast music in your headphones – make sure you can always hear a car approaching.

Switch it up

Once you get up to at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, be sure to mix it up. On walks themselves, you can add some variety by including some hills or even some jogging intervals. You can also invest in some wrist weights to make it more challenging.

To get the most benefit for your body, it’s still advisable to work in some higher intensity exercise on some days. Whether that be a day of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) once a week or a couple days of 20 minute vigorous-intensity bouts on the elliptical, the variety will greatly benefit your body.

Don’t forget about weight training

Even the Department of Health and Human Services now includes weight training in their guidelines. Specifically, they recommend at least 2 days per week of strength training that targets all muscle groups.

Weight training is beneficial for so many reasons: it helps with weight loss/maintenance, increases strength and endurance, and reduces the chance of injury. Walking and other forms of cardio simply won’t do what weight training does.

So please don’t forget about it!

RELATED POST: Weight Training for Beginners

I wish I had known all the health benefits of walking before now. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your only options for exercise are the ones that completely exhaust you. When vigorous-intensity exercise sounds like the last thing you want to do, take a walk instead – and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer!

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Do you love to go on walks? Where’s your preferred walking place? What’s your Plan B if there’s bad weather or the location is unavailable? Share in the comments below!