Walking works to improve your health in many ways. If you are currently inactive, get a doctor’s approval before beginning an exercise program. Walking is a low impact aerobic exercise that can be done by just about anyone.
What are the benefits of walking for exercise?
When we walk for exercise, our entire body benefits from all the actions that occur. Walking works to improve our mood, and stress can be decreased. Exercise walking can help alleviate depression. Bone and muscles are strengthened, and blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol can be lowered. And we burn calories from walking while keeping our bodies healthy to prevent and manage disease.
Walking works by using many muscles
More than leg muscles participate when we are in a walking motion. The mind can relax as our eyes take in the surroundings, whether on a treadmill or outside. As your feet and legs are moving you along, the arms swing, and the trunk is involved. Your lungs are filling with an abundance of air and exhaling carbon dioxide, and your heart rate is increasing.
What you should eat before walking
Eat a light snack and be well hydrated depending on the distance you are planning to walk and if it has been several hours since you have eaten. Notice the temperature and the humidity. We can become dehydrated under any conditions if we don’t consume enough water. The hotter, the more likely you are to sweat, but in the cold air, we lose water vapor, so be sure you are well prepared before going out.
Walking tips for beginners
Just starting? On day one, step out for 5 minutes and return to the starting point for a total of ten minutes. Add a total of five minutes each day until you reach thirty minutes. If you do not reach 30 minutes on day five, that is ok; notice where you are, and consider adding a minute or two at a time and continue from there as you desire.
The gear needed for walking is minimal. Shoes that fit well and provide support are a priority. Socks that wick sweat can keep you more comfortable and keep your feet from feeling yucky as you walk. Clothing should be loose-fitting and a lightweight fabric that wicks sweat, since this can help you feel cooler and the sweat off your skin. Waistbands should fit comfortably, not tight. If you sweat a lot, a headband or wristband can come in handy.
One more especially important note: apply sunscreen!
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, Second Addition, 2018 recommend less sitting and moving more for adults. A range of 150-300 minutes a week is advised for optimal health benefits. You can reach this by walking 30-60 minutes a day for five days a week. Strength exercises will provide additional benefits.
If you do not have 30 minutes at one time, walk 10 or 15 minutes at a time.
As we exercise, endorphins, which are hormones in our brains and nervous systems, are released, giving us a feeling of well-being. They make us feel good! Exercising produces endorphins, and when we exercise in a group, this may be even more beneficial. If you do not have a group, then walk and take in the scenery. Have fun!
It is time to move
When you might feel like all these thoughts are rolling around in your head, and you want a little tranquility, walking works to help you calm those thoughts.
When I am feeling stressed, I have heard myself say (out loud), “I have to go get some endorphins!” Walking works to help clear my thinking and takes the edge off the stress. Then, I can make decisions. I invite you to explore the pleasant act of walking.