The benefits of walking are the same as the benefits you get from most types of exercise. Walking also has the advantage that it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule. You can easily add more walking into your daily life, for example by
- choosing to walk instead of drive for short journeys or
- parking a few minutes walk from where you’re going
- getting off your train or bus a stop early
Alternatively, you can take time out to do some walking, maybe by taking a walk break at lunchtime or going for a walk in your free time. There are health benefits to walking at any speed, but a fast pace will be a more effective cardio workout. Regular walking, like any exercise, is good for weight control, muscles, joints, bones, heart, circulation and mental health. Here are 10 benefits of walking:
- Burns calories
- Makes heart stronger
- Improves circulation
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves mood
- Strengthens muscles, ligaments and tendons
- Improves flexibility
- Improves balance and coordination
- Increases bone mineral density (meaning reduced risk of osteoporosis)
- Improves joint mobility
Do you get all the benefits of walking with a treadmill?
Most of the benefits apply if you’re using a treadmill and there are a few advantages. Walking outdoors also has its advantages though.
Advantages of the treadmill
On a treadmill, it’s easier to set yourself targets and track your progress. This is because the speed and incline are controllable and the distance is easily measurable. If you’re using a treadmill, you don’t need to bother mapping a route out. Also, you can set your treadmill to a specific speed, rather having to judge how hard you are working. Another advantage is the option to increase the gradient to add intensity.
Advantages of walking outside
On the other hand, the predictable conditions of the treadmill make it less of an all-over body challenge, because you don’t have to cope with uneven surfaces and changes in direction. These factors will work your muscles in different ways and especially be better for training balance, coordination and the core abdominal muscles. Even different weather conditions can change how you work slightly. For example if it’s wet the surface will be more slippery and if you’re walking into the wind you’ll have to work harder. Plus with walking outdoors, the only fuel burned is your own body fuel, so there is no carbon footprint. Lastly, you get the benefits of walking in fresh outdoor air (especially good for mental health benefits such as stress and anxiety relief).
Start enjoying the benefits of walking
You don’t need much to get started: comfortable shoes and clothes, a water bottle and a walking plan. Even if you’re just going to increase how much walking you do in your everyday life, it’s better to plan this out. If you have a clear plan of what you’re going to do, you’ll be more likely to do it. You’ll be even more likely to stick to your plan if you write it down and keep a diary of your walking.
If you’re going to set aside time specifically for walking, then you need to decide how often you’ll be walking, how long for and where. Online route planners can be helpful in planning out your walking route – see here for a guide on how to do this. You might also want to think about how fast you’re going to walk. Would you prefer to stick to normal walking pace, or increase the pace a bit so that you get your pulse rate up? This post sets out a 6 week program of interval walking at 3 speeds, which is a good way to maximise the benefits of your walk without working uncomfortably hard.
Free programs to help you enjoy the benefits of walking: