Walking is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. Just 30 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. It can also reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and some cancers. Unlike some other forms of exercise, walking is free and doesn’t require any special equipment or training.
Physical activity does not have to be vigorous or done for long periods in order to improve your health. A 2017 study of inactive women found that even a low level of exercise – around 75 minutes per week – improved their fitness levels significantly when compared to a non-exercising group.
Walking is low impact, requires minimal equipment, can be done at any time of day and can be performed at your own pace. You can get out and walk without worrying about the risks associated with some more vigorous forms of exercise. Walking is also a great form of physical activity for people who are overweight, elderly, or who haven’t exercised in a long time.
Walking for fun and fitness isn’t limited to strolling by yourself around local neighborhood streets. There are various clubs, venues, and strategies you can use to make walking an enjoyable and social part of your lifestyle
Health benefits of walking
You carry your own body weight when you walk. This is known as weight-bearing exercise. Some of the benefits include:
- Increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
- Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
- Improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint, and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
- Stronger bones and improved balance
- Increased muscle strength and endurance
- Reduced body fat.
Walking for 30 minutes a day
To get the health benefits, try to walk for at least 30 minutes as briskly as you can on most days of the week. ‘Brisk’ means that you can still talk but not sing, and you may be puffing slightly. Moderate activities such as walking pose a little health risk but, if you have a medical condition, check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program of physical activity.
Make walking part of your routine
Try to make walking a routine – for example, try to walk at the same time each day. Remember, you use the same amount of energy, no matter what time of day you walk, so do what is most convenient for you. You may find that asking someone to walk with you will help make it a regular activity. Some people find that keeping an activity diary or log also makes it easier.
Things to remember
- Walking for 30 minutes a day or more on most days of the week is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health.
- If you can’t manage 30 minutes a day, remember ‘even a little is good, but more is better’.
- Walking with others can turn exercise into an enjoyable social occasion.
Safety suggestions while walking
Walking is generally a safe way to exercise, but look out for unexpected hazards. Suggestions include:
- See your doctor for a medical check-up before starting a new fitness program, particularly if you are aged over 40 years, are overweight or haven’t exercised in a long time.
- Choose walks that suit your age and fitness level. Warm-up and cool down with a slow, gentle walk to ease in and out of your exercise session.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and appropriate footwear to avoid blisters and shin splints.
- Wear sunglasses, sunscreen, long sleeves, and a hat to avoid sunburn.
- Take waterproof clothing to avoid getting wet if it rains.
- Carry a walking stick or umbrella to fend off unleashed, unfriendly dogs.
- Before bushwalking, check the weather forecast and take appropriate safety measures.
- Drink plenty of fluids before and after your walk. If you are taking a long walk, take water with you.