When most people think about getting in shape, they think they have to shell out big bucks for a home gym. Or they think they have to spend the time, money, and gas to go to the gym. But did you know you can most of those same benefits simply by incorporating walking into your schedule? It’s true! While walking isn’t an exercise on par with weight lifting, aerobics, or spin classes, it’s still a weight-bearing exercise that gets you up and moving. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, all you need are a good pair of walking shoes and a route to walk on. Furthermore, walking delivers most of the same health benefits as those gym-based classes and exercises.
So what are some of the health benefits of walking? Here are a few of the more noteworthy ones:
Because walking gets you up from a sedentary position, it counts as exercise. And as we all know, exercise burns calories, and weight loss occurs when the number of calories burned exceeds those taken in. A bonus is that walking is relatively low-impact, so you can keep with it with minimal risk of injury or stress to your joints.
Strengthen Bones and Muscles
Did you know that walking counts as a weight-bearing exercise? While you generally aren’t pumping iron or doing squats while you’re walking laps around the track, you are incorporating your body’s weight as a method of resistance. This helps keep bones and muscles strong, which is especially important if you’re at risk of (or suffering from) Osteoporosis.
Improve Your Mood
Ever come home from work or school in a foul mood, only to have it clear up when you go for a walk? Walking helps elevate the production of endorphins in your body, which help to regulate and stabilize your mood.
Improve Balance and Coordination
As you walk more and further strengthen your muscles, you will also find you balance and coordination improving. Your muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues can work better to keep you balanced and prevent falls and injuries.
Manage or Prevent Diseases
Millions of people either are at risk of or live with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases that cause death or significant disability. Walking can not only lower your risk of developing these diseases, it can also help you effectively manage them if you already are living with them.
Healthy adults should strive to get 150 minutes of moderate activity, 75 minutes, or some combination thereof per week, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. If you’re just getting started with a walking regimen, it’s best to start out slowly and build your endurance; for example, start with 5 minutes of walking per day, then gradually increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes. To keep yourself motivated, you can try walking with a friend, pet, or family member; or vary where you walk every week so you have a change of scenery while you’re getting in shape.