During the pandemic, more people made time for walking. In many cases, the new habits have stuck. Part of the reason for that is that participants recognised walking provided physical and mental health benefits.
In the last couple of years, we have seen an increase in the number of people leaning on walking as their primary form of exercise. And not just walking for walking’s sake. A lot of people have taken up brisk walking and nordic walking as cardiovascular exercise.
So why is walking becoming such a popular form of exercise?
In this article, we going to discuss the physical, mental and emotional benefits walking offers people. Researchers have found that no matter whether you walk for 10 minutes an hour or 10,000 steps a day, the simple act of walking offers multiple benefits.
It’s Accessible and Freeeee
Unless you take walking to the next level, taking it up as a daily activity doesn’t have to cost you a penny. You don’t need any equipment. As a matter of fact, with the sweatcoin app, you can earn money.
Moreover, you don’t need to learn a new skill. You’ve been walking for years so it’s completely accessible and a great way for people commencing a fitness program to ease their way into physical exercise.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults participate in at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. Moderate-intensity is defined as anything that causes you to breathe more deeply than usual.
For some people, walking 30-minutes a day will be enough to start. Others will need to engage in brisk walking or plan out a more vigorous route which takes in hills and steps. Here are some tips for walking up hills.
Improves Cardiovascular System
It’s well-established that physical exercise improves the health of your heart. A good workout strengthens your cardiovascular system by making your heart beat faster.
As a result, you pump more oxygen into the bloodstream. This means you also breathe more deeply to take in more oxygen. Oxygen-rich blood cells support the immune system and help to repair the tissues throughout your body.
Multiple studies have shown that individuals who exercise three or more times a week are less likely to experience a sudden heart attack or other cardiac events that could impair their quality of life.
“Walking for an average of 30 minutes or more a day can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke by 35% per cent and Type 2 diabetes by 40%.”Heart Foundation
To achieve the best health benefits from walking, you should ideally be aiming to make walking a moderate-intensity exercise.
The question most people have is when does walking become cardiovascular?
The answer to that is different for everyone. Fortunately, there is a way to measure the exertion rates that sufficiently stimulate the cardiovascular system of each individual.
The Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion rates physical symptoms you can test to gauge how hard you cardiovascular is working. Ideally, you want to hit exertion rates of 4-6 out of 10 to qualify walking as a moderate-intensity exercise.
By the time you hit your maximum in the 4-6 marker, you should be breathing heavily and barely able to have a conversation. Taking deep breaths midway through a sentence should do it.
You should notice your breathing becoming increasingly deeper during your exercise program. If you complete your course and haven’t hit the 4-6 Borg Scale standard, you will either need to walk faster or incorporate challenges that stimulate your cardiovascular system.
As we mentioned, including hills or steps is an option. If you don’t live anywhere near an incline, dance the quick step on the side of the curb or perform some reverse press-ups on a park bench.
Here are some other cardiovascular exercises you can do during your walking workout.
In addition to improving your cardiovascular system and heart function, walking can also help you to lose weight. With record levels of obesity causing more preventable deaths than any other time in recorded history, walking can help to extend your lifespan.
As a matter of fact, several studies have shown that walking as little as two hours a week can extend your life. Walking six hours a week, lowers the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
As mentioned above, the faster you walk the harder your cardiovascular system has to work. And like any muscle, the more often you work a system, the stronger it gets. Some studies show that brisk walking can extend life expectancy by as many as16 years.
A study published in International Journal of Exercise Science, revealed that participants given distance-orientated goals lost an average of almost nine pounds in 10 weeks.
Interestingly, participants that targeted time-based goals such as “walking for one hour,” gained weight by an average of 2.4 pounds.
A comprehensive study performed over a 13-year period found that walking can improve the quality of a person’s life for more years. The researchers concluded:
“An increase in walking time at the population level would bring about a tremendous change in people’s health and medical cost. A campaign to encourage people to walk for longer and a program to make walking environments safer and more pleasant should be implemented. This intervention may extend life expectancy without apparently increasing lifetime medical expenditure, especially for men.” ~ BMJ
Better Long-Term Benefits Than Running
When it comes to cardiovascular exercise and weight loss, running gets all the plaudits. It burns almost twice as many calories than walking. However, brisk walking still provides the same benefits as running even though you have to walk twice as far or take twice as long.
However, that’s only the short-term benefits – and putting in twice the number of hours is not plausible for people with busy lifestyles. The simple solution is to carry a weighted vest or backpack to ramp up your exertion levels.
Where walking does come up trumps the long-term benefits. Because walking has less impact on your joints and limbs, there is less risk of suffering overuse injuries such as stress fractures, shin splits and ITB friction syndrome.
So whilst running is more efficient, the higher risk of injuries could impair your quality of life as you age. For example, IBT can restrict movement in the hips and feet as you get older and has also been linked with arthritis in knee joints.
Improves your Immune System
The immune system plays a vital role in maintaining your health. Its role is to protect the body from invading bacteria, viruses fungi and illnesses. Over time, stress, pollution, toxins in household cleaning solutions and more build up in the body.
Without the help of the immune system to create antibodies, humans would suffer from far more illnesses than we do. But only providing you keep your immune system in good working order.
Tip-top immunity relies on the production of antibodies and T-Cells. The latter are created by white blood cells, which in turn require oxygen. Therefore, walking further or at a faster pace improves your immune system simply because by breathing more deeply you oxygenate your bloodstream.
Some studies have shown that walking in nature significantly improves the immune system. Participants were found to have 50% more T-cells after walking in the woods. They also had lower blood pressure and felt more clear-headed.
In addition, brisk walking fires endorphins – naturally occurring chemicals that improve mood. In turn, a good mood promotes better states of mental well-being, positive thinking and healthy habits.
Studies reveal that people with a positive outlook enjoy better health. Indisputable links have been shown between positive thinking and multiple conditions including lower blood pressure, heart disease, and even chronic diseases.
Negative thinking, on the other hand, releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Chronic stress reduces the number of white blood cells which impairs the capacity of the immune system to function at optimum levels of performance. Thus you are more likely to be infected by common bacteria and viruses. Plus you take longer to recover.
Spend Time with Friends (or make new Friends)
A 12-year study performed in England proved what psychologists have suspected for some time – there are links between loneliness and depression.
That link was driven home during the pandemic. The increase in reported cases of depression increased by 25%. Many of these cases came in the cohort of people that live alone.
Loneliness and isolation was the leading complaint of employees during the draconian Covid lockdowns. Whilst remote working may be ideal for employees with young families, younger generations that do not have a company struggle to cope with the lack of interaction with other people.
Taking up walking on a regular basis gives you an opportunity to meet up with like-minded friends. You get to kill three birds with one stone; physical exercise, nurture your emotional well-being and catch up on the latest gossip.
For individuals that do not have like-minded friends that are interested in walking, why not join a walking club.
Walking in groups is a great way to stay active and have fun at the same time. Moreover, if walking is your primary source of exercise to stay fit, research shows you may be more likely to stick with it if you belong to a group compared to an exercise routine you perform on your own.
To ramp up your incentives, you can even share your goals with your group – especially if you have weight loss goals. Maintaining an exercise program if you have other people to support you in your mission – and by making your goals public it attaches more responsibility on you to achieve.
Walking and talking also release mood-boosting endorphins which ward off depression and promote positive thinking. Participants of walking groups have reported improved levels of contentment and attribute their boost in well-being to the social support they get from their walking companions.
Improve Cognitive Performance
In addition to promoting well-being, walking can improve cognitive function. This is particularly important today given the mounting crises of increased energy prices and the financial pressure that comes with the higher cost of living.
Cognitive performance does not only relate to how much you focus at work. It includes how positively you think. People with poor cognitive function typically experience tension, boredom, worry, dread and anxiety.
We’ve already mentioned that walking promotes positive thinking, but how?
According to studies, scientists believe that walking can spark curiosity and creativity which improves focus and benefits cognitive performance. Because more oxygen is drawn into the body, the cells in the brain are stimulated more. The brain exhausts around 50% of the oxygen you breathe.
Build Bonds with your Children
Studies show without a doubt how important it is for parents to bond with their children. No only does taking the time to spend quality time help to nurture the psychological development of young children, it also contributes to the nourishment of emotional wellbeing.
The absence of adult-children bonding has been shown to be the underlying cause of a high percentage of emotional traumas experienced by adults. Emotional wounds can lead to neurosis and psychosis as we age.
Walks present parents with an opportunity to teach the little ones about the world. Parents with teenagers may have more difficulty persuading them to take a walk “to bond”.
There are ways you can make walks more fascinating by building in interests that stimulate their minds and emotions. Whether it’s science, nature, using their senses, adventure seeking or playing games, if you make walks gun and engaging it helps to stir emotions that bond families.
If you do need some ideas on how to persuade your kids to go for a walk, check out our tips for making nature walks more exciting for kids. And don’t forget to download the Sweatcoin app. Every step you take contributes to your earnings potential.