Walking can be a great way to regain your health after an illness. There are many benefits from this low impact form of exercise.
Running is my passion. But I also love walking and hiking. Walking is a fabulous and simple form of exercise. If you can’t run, are going through medical treatments, or simply don’t like running, I encourage you to develop a habit of regular walks. Walking is also a great place to start if you want to learn to run, but aren’t quite ready to take the plunge. I walked routinely before I started running. I walked through my cancer treatments, including walking about 4 km every day to and from my radiation treatment appointments.
Benefits of walking 30 minutes per day
There are so many benefits to walking just 30 minutes per day. It improves your heart health and blood pressure. Walking routinely at a brisk pace can also help lower the risk of stroke and heart attack. It can lower the risk of cancer, while slowing tumor growth and reducing recurrence rates in cancer patients. This type of exercise strengthens the immune system and reduces stress. It can help you sleep better and improve your mood. Walking daily also helps stabilize blood sugars and reduces the risk of diabetes. There are so many benefits from such a simple and enjoyable activity. Why would you not want to walk everyday?
Buy a comfortable pair of walking shoes
First, invest in a good pair of walking shoes. Walking shoes and running shoes have slight differences. Walking uses a slightly different set of muscles and results in different motion compared to running. There are different forces placed on your feet, legs and back. Runners exert more force on the ground and their feet as they land. They may strike the ground with the ball of the foot, heel or midfoot. Walking doesn’t exert as much force on the ground. Walkers usually land on the heel and then roll the foot forward to the ball of the foot. A good walking shoe will allow for this type of motion.
Walking shoes can be the difference in how much you enjoy your walks. If you are walking every day, you will want a good shoe that will protect your feet and allow the range of motions to naturally occur. Talk to a knowledgeable sales associate in a store that specializes in sports footwear.
Be sure to wear the appropriate footwear for the type of conditions. If you are walking on a clear paved pathway or sidewalk, walking shoes are appropriate. If you are hiking, wear a shoe that will grip the trail and provide extra support for your feet and ankles. Hiking shoes or boots would be appropriate on the trails. In winter, be sure to wear something that will grip on the snow and ice and provide some water resistance, such as winter hikers.
Walk outside as much as possible. Walking amongst nature has been shown to have better health benefits than being in the city. There is just something about being out in among the trees and sunshine. Fresh air and a gentle warm breeze on your face can do wonders to lift spirits and reduce stress.
Hiking is a great variation. I love hiking almost as much as running. However, if you live in the heart of a big city, this may not be possible. Just walk where you are able. It’s all good!
Walk to your abilities
Walk to your ability, but try to push yourself a little bit further each week until you are walking at a brisk pace. You should be getting your heart rate up a bit during your walks. If it becomes too easy and your heart rate isn’t much over your resting rate, it’s time to take it up a notch. You can do this by walking faster, going further or adding some hills into your route.
Walk with friends
Grab some friends or a work colleague and go for a walk. Research shows that exercising in groups has greater benefits on our health than exercising alone. You could be the inspiration for someone else starting an exercise program. How wonderful is that. Walking with someone also takes your mind off the activity, as you become engaged in conversation. Before you know it, that 30 minutes is over.
Walking with friends is also safer than venturing out alone.
However, going out alone is better than not walking at all. Try to use the time to enjoy the scenery, contemplate on how wonderful life is, or practice mindful meditation. Getting lost in our thoughts can reduce stress and heal our minds.
Safety when walking
Be safe when walking alone, or even when with friends. Here are some safety tips to help keep you safe:
- Tell someone where you are going and when you are expected to return
- Take a cell phone
- Carry identification on you, including someone to contact in case of an emergency
- Be visible; wear bright colored and reflective clothing
- Take a whistle with you for emergencies
- Walk briskly and with purpose
- Face oncoming traffic
- Don’t assume cars or cyclists can see you
- If listening to music, podcast or audiobook, keep the volume low or wear only one earbud
- Be aware of your surroundings, other people and dogs
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How to start walking
How do you start walking? That may sound like a silly question. However, there is a difference between just walking and walking for fitness. Walking for fitness requires us to walk at a brisk pace for a longer duration. This requires conditioning and building up to it. If you are just getting off the couch or don’t walk very much, then you should build slowly. If you do too much too quickly, you will become sore and walking won’t be an enjoyable experience.
Walking for health requires a minimum of 30 minutes per day or at least 150 minutes per week.
Start where you are at. If you can only walk to the end of the block and back, then start with this. Do this every day for 1 week. The next week, go a little further. Maybe try one and a half or two blocks and back. The next week, try 2 or 3 blocks. The idea is to keep pushing yourself each week to go a little further.
When just starting to walk, it isn’t easy. You may be winded, tired, sore and perhaps a little self-conscious. I never liked the sound of myself breathing heavy from just walking. It reminded me of how out of shape I was. But the only way to improve is by doing it. And by doing it, your body will respond. It will get easier. You will get stronger. But you have to keep doing it. You have to do the work to gain the benefits.
Once you can walk for 30 minutes, take it up a notch
Once you are able to walk for 30 minutes, try walking a little faster or try adding in some hills. Hills and stairs are a great way to build muscle and strengthen your heart. But you should be able to walk for at least 30 minutes before attempting the more strenuous climbs.
As it gets easier, try to keep pushing yourself. A little further or a little faster. It’s all about improving yourself. And it feels wonderful to be able to see your progress. Logging your workouts helps to keep track. You can do this the old fashioned way of pen and paper, or you can use a computer spreadsheet program or mobile app. Take a picture every week and log your progress by photos. It is fun to look back and see how far you have progressed.
Walking and weight loss
While walking has many health benefits, weight loss may or may not be one of them. Walking at a brisk pace only burns about 90 to 100 calories per mile if you weigh 180 – 200 pounds. You also need to eat healthy and control your portion sizes to lose weight. Walking alone won’t give you the weight loss results you may be looking for. However, walking can help you lose weight if you have healthy eating habits. Walking can also help you control cravings and the hormones associated with weight control.
If you are looking for weight loss tips, check out this article called We Need to Let Diets Just Die Out.
Whether we run or walk, the important thing is to just keep moving.
If you are ready to take it to the next level, check out my article on how to start running.