There is a push to encourage people to walk more often at the moment. With an increase in awareness of good physical and mental health, it has been muted that ‘active travel’ such as cycling and walking is a good commuting choice.
Countless studies show that walking has many health benefits for heart disease and stroke, diabetes, and cancer as well as lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Walking is also one of the most accessible forms of physical activity. There is a low physical threshold and it’s free. No matter how you ‘walk’, walking could be the healthiest commuting option on offer.
But not by much — at least according to a new study. The latest research examined the exact mechanism by which active travel influences health outcomes but found that the cardiovascular biomarker levels were not significantly different between people that walked or cycled to work and traditional modes of transport.
Researchers say a greater depth of study is required to determine whether the quality of public transport, work-time arrangements, climate, and childcare facilities have any correlation on health.
Surely, the nature of a person’s job, lifestyle and family life should be taken into consideration as well. But there was no mention of that.
Subsequently, we thought we’d assess the advantages and disadvantages of walking to work with an empirical study of our own.
Pros and Cons of Walking as a Commuting Choice
Walking can be a great choice for commuting, depending on a variety of factors such as the distance of the commute, weather conditions, and time constraints. Listed below are the pros and cons:
- Walking is free and requires no special equipment membership like other sports and activities — both indoor and outdoor sports.
- Walking is a low-impact form of exercise that can be easy on the joints and accessible for most people
- Walking is an environmentally-friendly choice, as it does not require any fossil fuels or emissions.
- Walking as a commuting choice is a great way to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine which is shown to deliver a variety of health benefits including regulating the cardiovascular system.
- Walking can also help to relieve stress and is an enjoyable way to start and end the workday.
- If you are walking with friends, and having some company and a good natter is great for stimulating cognitive function and nurturing emotional wellbeing
- Walking can be time-consuming which can eat into your family time and place more demands on you in the household
- Walking can be challenging or uncomfortable in extreme weather conditions, such as extreme heat or cold, rain, or snow. On bad days, you would naturally travel by car or take public transport.
- Walking as a commuting choice may not be practical for individuals with mobility limitations or those who need to carry heavy loads.
- Walking may not be a safe choice in certain areas or during certain times of day.
- Walking may not be a feasible choice for individuals with very long commutes or those who live in remote areas.
A Closer Examination of Walking
Walking seems to get mixed views. For dedicated fitness experts, walking is regarded as a leisurely pastime rather than a form of exercise. However, there are plenty of studies that show walking is a form of exercise and does deliver health benefits.
But for walking to be classed as an activity with health benefits, you have to participate for a reasonable amount of time several days a week.
One study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes a day, five days a week was associated with a significantly reduced risk of heart disease.
Another study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that walking briskly for just 20 minutes a day could lower the risk of heart attack by as much as 30%.
It’s even been claimed that walking just 10 minutes a day can extend your lifespan for people aged over 85. And up to seven years if you engage in brisk walking for 25 minutes a day.
The benefits of walking for heart health are thought to be related to its aerobic nature which means it gets the heart pumping and increases oxygen flow to the body. This can help improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.