This post rounds up what I think are the “6 key health benefits of walking”. Boring? No, actually quite topical; I’ve received a few emails asking what to do if you a) hardly have any time to workout and b) haven’t trained for a very long time (or in fact, ever). For this scenario, I think it’s wise to ease in gently; ‘going for a walk’ might not feel like a workout per se, but if you do it regularly and properly, it comes with several wondrous health benefits, which I discuss later. Above all, you don’t need membership, and it can be squeezed in whenever there’s a bit of extra time; walking to or from work; on lunch breaks; on holiday as an eager tourist etc!
Depending on your current fitness level, a brisk strut may very well get you sweating and raise the heart rate too. As you progress you can increase the distance and/or speed, switch between high and moderate intensity, decrease the ‘recovery periods’, and find hills/steps to climb. If you’re unsure how many steps you take in a day how about trying out a pedometer; Britain’s NHS suggests we should aim to take >10,000 steps a day to see health benefits, which sounds VAST, but our lazy-day average is supposedly c. 4,000, so it’s definitely achievable! Here are my top 6 health benefits you’ll enjoy by going for a little walk:
1) DEVELOPS STRONGER BONES: Walking is far less strenuous on your joints than running, and can reduce the risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone mineral density. If you’ve a brittle, battle-scarred skeleton, this is a great way to exercise in a relatively low-impact manner.
2) HEALTHY HEART: High blood pressure and high cholesterol – both of which are significant contributors to heart disease – are proven to be reduced by walking regularly. The process has a regulating effect on the blood pressure, whilst it promotes a reduction in LDL cholesterol (the bad type) and an increase in HDL cholesterol (the good type!).
3) CONTROLS WEIGHT: Depending on fitness level and the intensity, a little aerobic walk can get you sweating and raise your heart rate, thereby toasting calories. A 30 minute walk at pace (4 mph) will burn c.150 calories, which is another cupcake gone – *poof*!
4) CLEARS THE MIND: The psychological benefits of a long walk are such that it can help clear a mind full of stress and worry, reduce depression and even improve the quality of sleep! Wandering around a gorgeous park with a friend and taking in some of mother nature’s happenings, can generate a fabulous serotonin response to get your mind humming along nicely, whilst also boosting your Vitamin D intake (which we can’t get easily from food)!
5) ENERGISES THE BODY: Walking at pace is a superb way to promote oxygen to flow around your body, reducing muscle tension and stiffness, and encouraging a more energised constitution. Just a 10 minute walk after lunch-at-your-desk is a fabulous way to burn some calories and power up at the same time! It’s also a great ‘active recovery’ after a workout.
6) TONES UP YOUR MUSCLES: A hill-walk every day can really bring shapely definition to the calves (through the ‘push-off’ phase of the step), quads (used in the extension), even glutes (employed when the hips rock during the walk). Increasing the pace will engage the hamstrings, hip flexors, and buttocks, whilst increasing the incline will work the calves more. A mild swing of the arms should also help to introduce some tone there, compounded with arm weights.
I was wearing: Missoni headband, River Island maxi dress, Asos shoes. All pictures shot at the Grand Hotel Du Cap Ferrat
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