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The benefits of walking can range from keeping fit, to helping you regain your health after an illness. Walking is a low impact form of exercise with many benefits for both our physical and mental health. It is a form of exercise that most people can do, no matter what their starting level of fitness and health is.
I love to run. I love the rhythmic sound of my feet hitting the ground, I love the feel-good endorphins that are released while I am running, I love the places that my feet carry me, and I love the feeling when I finish a challenging route. As I age, I realise that my body is not always happy for me to run. The recovery for me is longer after a quality session and when I’m exhausted, it is more difficult to find the motivation to get out the door. As much as running is my passion, I love walking and hiking as well.
Walking is a great way to increase your health and fitness for many reasons such as:
· Walking is a great and simple way to exercise.
· If you are unable to run due to illness or injury or are undergoing medical treatment, or simply do not like running, regular walks are a great substitute
· If you would like to learn to run but your body or fitness levels aren’t quite ready yet, walking is a brilliant place to safely begin your journey to becoming a runner.
· Not everyone’s body is well suited for running. Walking allows you to experience many of the benefits of running with less impact on your body and joints.
Regular walking has many health benefits:
· Improves heart health
· Reduces stress
· Increases immunity
· Energises and strengthens your body and mind
· Stabilises blood sugar
· Improves sleep
· Improves mood
· Maintains bone density
· Reduces risk of osteoporosis
Tips for walking your way to health and fitness:
1. Buy a comfortable and supportive pair of shoes for walking
Consider investing in a pair of good walking shoes. Walking shoes differ slightly from running shoes as compared to running, walking involves different muscles and uses different motions. The forces exerted on your feet, legs, and back are different than they are from running. As runners land, they exert more force on the ground which results in greater force impacting their feet. Depending on their style of running, runners may strike the ground with the ball of their foot, heel or midfoot. While walking, less force is exerted on the ground. Typically, a walker will land on their heels and roll their foot forward to the ball. The right walking shoe will support this motion.
A good pair of walking shoes can enhance your enjoyment of walks. Walking on a daily basis will require you to wear a good shoe that protects your feet and allows you to move naturally through the range of motion. It is important to replace your walking shoes regularly to ensure that your feet and body benefit from the optimal support and cushioning.
2. Wear clothing that wicks sweat
While walking your way to fitness, wear clothing that is breathable and keeps sweat and moisture away from your skin. Cotton clothing can hold wetness against the skin and increase your chances of suffering from painful blisters and chafing. Sweat is drawn away from the skin by synthetic or natural fibers, such as merino wool. Choose clothing that says moisture-wicking or dry-fit to exercise in.
3. Walk outside in nature
Walking among nature can do wonders for our mental health. Immersing yourself in trees, water, birds and natural surroundings can ease stress and lift your spirits.
Exploring new routes and focusing on your surroundings can keep you motivated to walk your way to fitness and grounded. Bonus points if you leave technology at home to focus only on the sound of your footsteps and the sounds of nature as you walk!
4. Walk with friends!
Walking with friends and colleagues is a great way to connect through movement. The added accountability of meeting someone else to exercise keeps your motivated to head out the door and also helps encourage you to walk for a longer period of time. While walking with someone, you become engaged in conversation, so your mind is taken off the activity and before you know it, your planned time and distance has passed!
The benefits of walking in groups appear to outweigh the benefits of exercising alone. You could inspire someone to take up regular exercise or walking for the first time.
There is safety in numbers. It is safer to walk with friends than it is to venture out alone.
5. Start your walking plan slowly
Just like it is important to ease into a running plan, walking for fitness requires you to build up your speed and distance safely to avoid injury. Walking for fitness involves a speedier pace, increased effort and a longer duration that heading out for a leisurely stroll. It is important to start slowly to avoid becoming too sore or losing motivation to continue with future walks.
How much walking should you aim for?
The World Health Organisation suggests exercising for a minimum of 150 minutes each week for health. Spreading this with 5 walks of 30 minutes each is a good target.
Whether you choose to walk or run, the important thing in improving your health and fitness is to regularly move your body. Find exercise you enjoy doing and fall in love with movement and the great feeling that it results in for your body and your mind!