How walking regularly can support a healthy lifestyle
Whether it’s walking to the bus stop, walking to the shops, or getting out and about to enjoy a weekend walk in the park or countryside, we all know that we should be walking more. But can this low impact activity really support a healthy lifestyle and improve fitness as well as help your body to prevent and manage different conditions? Keep reading to find out.
The benefits of regular exercise
Aside from getting you out and about in the fresh air, regular exercise boasts a wide range of both physical and mental benefits, including:
- Improving cardiovascular fitness
- Helping you to maintain a healthy body weight
- Preventing and managing certain conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure
- Strengthening your muscles and bones, and increasing endurance
- Increase energy levels
- Improving your mood and mental wellbeing
- Reducing stress and tension, and alleviating insomnia
In short, daily exercise helps support a better and healthier life - with walking one of the most accessible and easy activities to engage in on a regular basis.
Considered a low impact activity, walking is accessible for all and can be made even more challenging and beneficial depending on your walking speed and the duration of your walks. Not only does this help to further increase your fitness and endurance levels, but it gives you a personal goal to focus on and can burn more and more calories as you progress to becoming a long distance of power walker.
A great way to kickstart your approach to faster walking is to break each walk into short intervals, alternating between short and fast bursts, and slower strolls. This kind of interval training is an approach used by runners who want to increase endurance and train their heart rate to deal with high intensity activity before benefiting from short recovery blocks.
Now that we know how beneficial walking really is, how can you ensure that your daily walks are building your body into a fitter and leaner version of itself?
Ways to improve your Walking
In this section, we will consider a number of ways of managing and improving your approach to walking. From your walking technique to the way you approach each walk, taking control can help you in your journey to finding a new passion and an activity which will help you stay lean, fit, and healthy.
Deciding to start walking regularly is the first step towards a healthier you - identifying the right technique is step two and is the most important step in your search for fitness. With the right posture, a walk is transformed into a stride towards fitness, with the main techniques to remember being:
- Hold your head high, looking ahead rather than down towards your feet
- Allow your shoulder to move naturally and keep your chin parallel to the ground
- Keep your back straight and your stomach muscles tightened
- Allow your arms to swing freely and comfortably
- Roll your feet from heel to toe with each step
With the right technique, you avoid injury and make every step count. And that’s not all.
With routine we don’t just mean the way you walk - we are talking about getting the right gear to walk in, choosing the right route depending on the time of day and the conditions, and ensuring that you warm up and cool down to avoid injury.
A few key tips from us include wearing comfortable and loose fitting clothing, which is breathable, investing in a good pair of trainers or walking shoes, selecting a safe route which is free from hazards, and ensuring that every long walk includes a warmup, cool down, and stretch at the end.
There are lots of fitness fanatics out there who say that if you don’t track and record your activity then it doesn’t count. While this may not apply or even appeal to you, there is still something to be said for setting goals and doing what you can to meet, break, and surpass those goals.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults should aim for around 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week (this includes walking), or around 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week (running or more intense exercise). Alternately, you can mix the two and create your own combination of activities, with the more you do, resulting in greater benefits to your physical and emotional health.
If that amount of exercise feels overwhelming, stick to around 30 minutes of physical exercise every day - that’s a small percentage of your day which can make you feel 10 times better.
Once you start really working on those goals, it’s time to track your progress and set yourself new goals which will challenge you without leaving you feeling overwhelmed. Tracking the number of steps that you take each day is one really great way of monitoring progress gradually but definitively.
Finally, work on ways of motivating yourself - from setting goals to factoring your daily walk into an established daily routine. Some other tips include finding a podcast or playlist to listen to that will make your walk more enjoyable, start walking with a friend or neighbour, and try new walking routes to add some variety to each excursion.
The more you can do to make walking a fun and scheduled part of your day, the easier it will be to get yourself up, outside, and working on your physical health and fitness goals. And if you find that you miss a day, rather than getting annoyed simply embrace the rest day and get back to chasing your goals tomorrow - after all, we all need a break now and then.
Looking for more useful articles to help support a healthy lifestyle? Head over to the Inspired Health blog where you will find an extensive hub of research-backed insights to support your journey to optimal health.