5 benefits of walking that will make you want to lace up

  • 16 Jan - 22 Jan, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly

Throughout the covid-19 pandemic, many people found themselves scheduling a daily walk to keep their lives more structured. For good reason: The benefits of walking are far-reaching – both for people just looking to get in a few more steps and for those intending to make it a workout.

Whether you’re squeezing in a quick jaunt or are setting aside time for a longer stroll, lacing up can do your body – and your mind – some good. Here are five benefits of walking that might make you want to slip on your sneakers right now (and some tips to make sure you get the most out of it).

Walking can be great active recovery

Every action has an opposite reaction – and similarly, every high-intensity interval comes with a recovery period. Walking, instead of sitting down or standing still, keeps your muscles warm and your heart pumping. You can also take a few steps between strength movements to add a low-impact cardio boost.

Walking also works as standalone active recovery sessions on days you’re not doing speedy runs, strength routines, or HIIT classes – and there should be days you’re not doing them. Not only does walking give your body a break, but it actually might speed up your recovery, by boosting blood flow through sore, fatigued muscles.

Walking may help your aching body feel better

Using walking to give your body a break from hard training can ward off overuse injuries in the first place, and it’s also an effective way of managing various aches. A 2018 study of 246 adults in the journal Evidence-Based Practice found walking worked as well as physical therapy in treating low back pain. In another study of over 1,500 adults from Northwestern University, just one hour of walking per week delayed disability in people who already had joint pain.

Walking may help you manage a wide range of diseases

Think of just about any health benefit you’ve ever heard you could get through exercise, and chances are there’s research showing walking may help get you there. In one small 2016 study published in Creative Nursing, just 10 weeks of walking 20 minutes per day improved women’s blood pressure, cholesterol, and other measures of heart health. The American Institute for Cancer Research advises 30-minute brisk walks, five times per week, to lower your cancer risk.

If you do have an illness or chronic condition, walking is often more accessible (and sometimes more palatable) than other forms of exercise. And it still brings big benefits – for instance, improved function and reduced fatigue during breast cancer treatment, better blood sugar control (when done after eating) if you have diabetes, and improved quality of life if you’re a cancer patient or survivor.

Walking can bolster your mental health

Moving your body can help shift your mindset in a big way. In one 2018 study of 66 young adults, a single 10-minute walk led to significant improvement in their self-reported moods.

While many people with mental health conditions like anxiety or depression are often told to just work out! – something which can be annoying and unhelpful, since in many cases, that’s not enough to treat the conditions – there is research to suggest that physical activity can be one element amid a broader group of habits that can be helpful. In fact, according to a recent research review of 55 published papers in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, “there may be sufficient evidence to promote walking to prevent and treat these conditions.”

Setting a goal to walk, and then doing it, also boosts something called self-efficacy. It’s a belief in yourself that, with time, further improves your health and well-being. Following through with that –being like, ‘I actually did it’ – can give you a deep sense of confidence about what you can do and how you can do it, and that you could potentially do it again tomorrow.

You might ease your eye pain

When you stare at a screen all day, your range of focus narrows to the few feet in front of you. This fatigues the muscles that help the eye focus, contributing to digital eyestrain. While this usually doesn’t harm your vision in the long run, it can contribute to symptoms such as headaches, sore eyes, and blurred vision.

Strolling outdoors, however, requires that you use long-range vision, as well as constant scaling of obstacles or terrain out in front of you and on either side. The more often you observe what’s going on in the wider world, the better your brain and eyes work together to process it.

Whether you’re taking to the streets to improve your community, boost your fitness, or calm your thoughts, adding a walk to your day can be a feel-good change to your normal routine. Consider it an act of fitness self-care for your body and mind.