Gyms can be intimidating, exercise programs can seem impossible and there are stores full of products promising to help you get healthy. But what if all you needed to do to start on the path to wellness was take a walk?
Consider this: today you might get off the bus a stop earlier and walk the distance home. Tomorrow, you do that and then walk around the block. The next day you might be due to run some errands and instead of driving across town, you park somewhere central and hit the footpath. Then by next week you’ve found the time and opportunity to add an extra kilometre of walking to your daily routine.
What are the health benefits of walking?
Incidental or not, there are many health benefits of walking. And perhaps most importantly, you really can start right now and it will cost you precisely nothing.
“Just 30 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance,” the Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel said.
“It can also reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers.
“Walking is also a great form of physical activity for people who are overweight, elderly, or who haven’t exercised in a long time.”
What about weight loss?
The key to losing weight when walking is your main form of exercise, is to keep a low calorie diet.
The Mayo Clinic has looked at whether walking is enough exercise to lose weight and has this advice.
“You might be able to lose weight that way, depending on the duration and intensity of your walking and what your diet’s like,” it said.
“But eating fewer calories through dietary changes seems to promote weight loss more effectively than does physical activity.
“If you add 30 minutes of brisk walking to your daily routine, you could burn about 150 more calories a day.”
Basically, there are many benefits of walking and it is a great way to just start moving your body. The more you do it, the more it will become a habit and the more you will start to see positive changes in your body and state of mind. Better Health Channel also recommends keeping up the challenge.
“Our bodies tend to get used to physical activity, so continue to increase your intensity as you are able to improve your fitness levels,” it said.
You can increase the intensity of your walks by:
- walking up hills
- walking with hand weights
- increasing your walking speed gradually by including some quick walking
- increasing the distance you walk quickly before returning to a moderate walking pace
- walking for longer.
Tools to keep it interesting
Don’t you find things are just a little bit more interesting if you can find a way to make them a social activity?
The Heart Foundation Walking runs groups as part of its 2 billion Steps challenge. The idea is to get people together to take a walk and also to have a chat. The community has more than 25,000 members who have been on more than 5 million walks across the country. You can search for one near you using your post code.
The Chiropractors’ Association of Australia has an initiative called Just Start Walking and as well as promoting the benefits of the exercise, it offers enthusiasts a smartphone app to keep track of their progress.
As well as mapping the course of your walks, you can measure their distance, find different routes, keep a history of walks to show your doctor and even share walks with your friends or challenge them to beat your personal best.
If you are a fan of using smartphone apps to help you stay fit and healthy, House Call Doctor has compiled some of the best available.