Walking is often overlooked as a form of physical activity, but it has great health benefits for both your body and your mind.
It’s one of the easiest ways to improve physical and mental health and stay connected to your community, helping you feeling less lonely and isolated. Walking, rather than driving, also helps to reduce air pollution and congestion – and saves you money!
Did you know that a 20-minute walk can also reduce the risk of certain cancers, depression, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes? And walking in nature is even better for you!
Reasons to walk
1. Improves heart health
When you walk regularly, you lower your risk of heart disease and improve your cardiovascular fitness levels. Your blood pressure will also decrease.
2. Increases your bone density
Weight-bearing activities improve bone density, and walking is the most common weight-bearing activity we do! Regular walking can slow the process of osteoporosis and increase your bone strength.
3. Strengthens your muscles and joints.
Including walking in our day to day lives strengthens the muscles of the legs, limb girdle and lower trunk which helps us maintain our balance and stability as we grow older. Walking also helps preserve the flexibility of our joints and improves our posture and how we carry ourselves.
4. Supports your weight-loss goals
If you have a goal of losing weight, regular exercise that raises your energy requirements over a day can support your goals. Any amount of walking, and at any pace, uses energy and will therefore burn off calories. Walking regularly (for example, on a morning, lunch and afternoon break during the working day) can help you keep your metabolic rate elevated, burning more calories across the whole day. Walking first thing in the morning may also help control appetite for the remainder of the day.
5. Improves insulin control
Studies suggest walking after a meal helps to control blood sugar levels and reduces the accumulation of abdominal fat which is associated with metabolic disease including heart disease, diabetes and liver problems. This is because moving improves how our bodies respond to insulin.
6. Can reduce social isolation
The more time you spend walking around your local area, the more likely you are to meet like-minded people within your community and develop stronger local connections. Accelerate this process by joining a local walking group - get in touch with us to find out more about local walking groups.
7. Keeps your body moving
Walking in smaller bursts throughout the day stops your metabolism from going to sleep. It keeps your mind active, keeps your metabolism revved up and helps give you more energy throughout the day. Sitting has been called ‘the new smoking’ by health professionals, because of its negative health impacts - walking little and often can counter the negatives of our largely sedentary lifestyles.
8. May slow the ageing process
Research by the University of Leicester suggests that a lifetime of brisk walking may add as much as 16-20 years to your lifespan. And it’s not all in the pace - the more steps you walk in a day, the lower your chance of dying from any cause!
9. Exercise improves your mood
All forms of exercise have been shown to improve your mood. Walking is free, easy, and adaptable to different levels of fitness - the perfect exercise for everybody!
10. Supports gut health
Exercise, including brisk walking, has a beneficial impact on the number and diversity of good bacteria in your gut. This has numerous positive effects for your health, including supporting digestion, improving your immunity and supporting your mood.
Even more reasons to walk in nature
11. Reduces anxiety, stress and anger
70% of UK adults say that being close to nature improves their mood, and almost half of UK adults said being close to nature helps them cope with stress.
12. Provides structure and a sense of purpose.
Having a regular walking routine builds a sense of purpose, improving mood. If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns, establishing reliable routines can help you manage your mental wellbeing.
13. Gives you more access to Vitamin D
Going for a walk outside is one of the best ways to top up on Vitamin D and improve your overall health at the same time. Vitamin D has been shown to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy, as well as reducing the chance of infections, some cancers and inflammation. Some studies show that Vitamin D may also help reduce depression.
14. Improves sleep
Studies have found that even small increases in the number of steps you take a day can improve the quality of your sleep.
15. Helps manage the symptoms of depression
If you suffer from mild to moderate depression, walking in nature has anti-depressant effects, and can help to manage your symptoms.
Walking is free, simple to take up and helps you connect with your local area. Check out our article on five great walking spots in Essex, get in touch to find local walking groups, or simply get started straight away with a walk to school, work or around your local park.
To find out how Essex Wellbeing Service can help you personally, take our assessment.