When it comes to improving health, well-being, and fitness, it is good to focus on simple, repeatable steps that lead to long-term sustainable results. Things like starting to walk every day or increasing your daily step count can go a long way to achieving this. As humans, we are designed to walk, run, and move about throughout the day. By doing so, we can improve many areas of our health and well-being.
Weight loss and maintenance
Walking is a great, low to moderate-intensity way to shed some kilos and maintain your physique. Moving faster and traveling over more challenging terrain can further increase the calorie burn, but an easy 30-minute walk done most days of the week can lead to good weight loss results.
Lower body strength
By starting to walk every day, or by increasing your daily step count helps to strengthen the muscles of the lower body. This is particularly important as we age, as the strength and size of the lower body muscles deteriorate and falls and fractures become more prevalent and life-threatening. Anything that can be done to slow or reverse this deterioration will be of benefit in the long run. That being said, walking every day at the same pace on flat ground will only strengthen the muscles to a certain point. Increasing the pace, distance, or walking up and down hills can help to further strengthen the leg muscles.
Heart health and blood pressure
Alongside strengthening the leg muscles, walking can also strengthen the heart muscle, especially when moving at a moderate to fast pace. The increase of activity and intensity forces the heart to pump more blood around the body at a faster rate, eventually making it stronger and more efficient. This, combined with the constant contractions and relaxing of muscles when walking and the dilation of blood vessels throughout the body, leads to better circulation of blood and better blood pressure control. This is important as high blood pressure, or hypertension, is an extremely prevalent health concern around the world. Studies have consistently shown that a regular walking regime can have a significant impact on reducing hypertension and associated heart diseases.
Improvements to mental health and wellbeing
The improved circulation brought on by walking also helps to deliver more nutrients and oxygen to vital organs, such as the brain. This can help it to function better and improve our mood. As said at the start of this piece, we are designed to move about, and by staying sedentary all day can allow stress, anxiety, and fatigue levels to creep up. Regularly moving around and walking is a good way to let off some steam and convert some of that stressful energy into movement. This in turn can lead to us feeling calmer, sleeping better, and being less tired throughout the day. To amp this up even more, walking outside in nature helps us to feel more “grounded”, as well as absorb some much-needed vitamin D, which further promotes good health.
Improvements to creative thinking
Improved blood flow to the brain and feelings of being more grounded and calmer can help to encourage creative thinking. Everyone from ancient Greek philosophers to modern-day scientists state that when the body moves, so does the mind. Indeed, many studies have shown that people perform better in memory and creative writing tasks both when walking and for a short period of time after. Therefore, going for a walk when brainstorming can help to flesh out new ideas and find solutions to difficult problems.
Finally, walking with a friend or group of people can help to strengthen social ties and bonds. As walking can lead to you feeling better about yourself and the world, as well as provide a boost to creative thinking, you can have a good, productive time bouncing ideas off each other, all while improving your health and fitness.
Take home message
It is often the simple things in life that yield the best results. Starting to walk consistently, or increasing your daily step count can lead to a lot of positives that will benefit you in the short and long term. A good starting point is three to five walks per week, anywhere from five to forty-five minutes in length. Or, if you are already walking and moving consistently and looking to increase what you are doing, try doing an extra 2000 to 4000 steps per day. Also, walking in different locations once a while helps to prevent boredom creeping in and including nature walks helps to keep you feeling more grounded and calmer.
1. Chertoff, J. What Are The Benefits of Walking? [Internet]. [place unknown]: Healthline; 2018 [reviewed 2018, cited 2023 Oct 10]. Available from https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-walking
2. Jabar, F. Why Walking Helps Us Think [Internet]. [place unknown]: The New Yorker; 2014 [published 2014, cited 2023 Oct 10]. Available from https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/walking-helps-us-think
3. Psychologies. Walking and mental health: understanding the benefits [Internet]. [place unknown]: Psychologies; 2022 [published 2022, cited 2023 Oct 10]. Available from https://www.psychologies.co.uk/walking-mental-health/