Walking… it seems so simple. Like many of you, I know that I should be walking daily but my daily steps average around a whopping 5,000 steps if that. With Covid-19, I don’t even want to know how many steps I take.
I like to believe I live a pretty active lifestyle since I work out at least four times a week and I try to maintain a balanced diet. However, I have a desk job and I am very sedentary when I’m not at the gym. If my apple watch didn’t tell me to get up every hour, I would probably sit for hours.
I go through these fazes where I decide I’m going to start walking more especially when I read more and more about how GOOD walking is for you. The number of benefits is really astonishing. But anyways, at the beginning of the month when I set my goals, I tell myself I’m going to hit 10,000 steps daily and rack in these benefits.
I’m sure you all can relate. It starts out sooo promising. I’m hitting those 10,000 steps, I’m feeling good about myself then …
A busy day at work happens or I binged Netflix for a little too long and it’s 9 o’clock and I have 3,834 steps…
Now, I’ve tried to make it up by walking in CIRCLES around my apartment, pacing like a madwoman, cleaning, anything to not break my goal. I guess this is the perfectionist in me.
However, at least for me, this is not sustainable. It’s not enjoyable and I eventually go back to my sedentary ways. So let’s fix this.
I’ve researched the benefits and this isn’t even a full list of all the benefits. They seem endless if you ask me. So here are 9 benefits that I found and some are unexpected. Now, to reap these benefits, you need to walk AT LEAST 30 minutes a day but I promise you, it’ll be worth it.
Now, I get it. It’s winter and it is COLD outside. It is so much easier to start a walking routine in the summer, amiright? But girlfriends, let’s do this. Let’s not procrastinate and let’s get this habit started. I’ll list below some ways for us to increase our steps and not all of them involve going outside because I live in an area where it rains and snows and I’m not that dedicated. I know there are days where going outside is just not enjoyable and I get it.
11 Benefits of Walking Daily
1. Helps in Weight Loss
In the simplest terms, walking is a form of exercise. It doesn’t burn as many calories as running but walking does burn more calories than sitting. I know I’m stating the obvious.
Walking is a great low-intensity exercise that anyone can do. It’s great for anyone trying to add extra movement into their day. In most cases, you can walk in what you’re wearing as long as you have comfortable shoes. This means you don’t have to add in the extra time it takes to change into workout clothes and shower.
Walking for 30 minutes a day can burn around 100 calories. In some cases more and some cases less. It is highly dependent on your height and weight but let’s say you’re 150 lbs. According to this calculator veryfitwell, you will burn 107 calories walking at a slow pace for thirty minutes. That is an extra 749 calories a week. With an extra 749 calories, you could put yourself in a calorie deficit fairly easily just from walking.
If you’re really trying to walk as a way to lose weight, research has shown adding intervals into your walk really amps up the calorie burn.
2. Improves Heart Health
Since walking is a form of aerobic exercise, it can improve your heart health. Thirty minutes a day of walking will increase your heart rate which leads to better blood circulation. This leads to a stronger, healthier heart!
In most cases, walking is a safe form of aerobic exercise. However, if you already have a heart condition, you should definitely consult a doctor before adding any aerobic exercises.
A study published in the New England journal of medicine found that participants who walked regularly have a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who didn’t walk regularly. That’s a pretty big decrease for just adding a daily walk into your routine.
3. Lower Blood Pressure
As you can see, a lot of these benefits go hand in hand. With growing sedentary lives as cars and the never-ending delivery options (like groceries .. wine .. you name it and you most likely don’t have to leave the house to get it), many Americans suffer from high blood pressure.
According to the American Heart Association, your blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mm Hg. Now if you are asking what these numbers mean:
- Systolic (first number): the pressure when your heart beats
- Diastolic (second number): the rest between beats
A study done by researchers at the University of California in San Francisco found that for every 1,000 steps a participant took, their systolic blood pressure went down 0.45 points. If you’re trying to hit 10,000 steps a day, that can be a huge impact.
4. Aids in Digestion
Walking helps the whole digestion system. Some studies have shown that walking helps speed up the digestion of food in the stomach which can help reflux issues such as heartburn.
I know after a big meal, a walk is always more helpful than the beloved food coma for me. Another form of exercise such as running or weight lifting would not be a good alternative as a post-meal workout. These things take blood away from the stomach and would actually cause a delay in digestion. I personally feel my food if I work out too close to eating.
Adding an after-meal stroll is a great way to bring up your step count. Try to recruit your roommates or loved ones and enjoy each other’s company!
5. Decreases Risk of Diabetes
An article published by the American Diabetes Association found that when older adults who were at risk for Type II Diabetes walked on the treadmill for 15 minutes immediately after a meal had lower spikes in blood sugar. It makes that after-meal stroll that much more appealing doesn’t it?
This study actually shows that walking immediately after a meal is more effective at lowering blood sugar than longer walks at another time. However, fitting walking into your schedule is the most important. It’s better to walk in the afternoon versus after a meal if you know you aren’t leaving the couch after dinner and a long day.
6. Reduces Risk of Stroke in Women
For those who don’t know, a stroke is when there is a temporary stop or delay in the blood supply to the brain. This is very serious as brain cells can begin to die within minutes.
A study showed that women who walked 3 and a half hours a week, which would be 30 minutes every day had fewer strokes. This is probably because walking helps reduce blood pressure and creates a healthier heart.
7. Improves Varicose Veins
Varicose Veins are those swollen looking veins on some people’s legs that are sometimes quite painful. You get these when your body is unable to push blood back up into your system properly. Basically, this excess blood in your legs causes the veins to swell.
Circulation is crucial in this process and to avoid developing varicose veins.
This requires some muscle contractions since your body is working against gravity. The venous system that is located in your legs works to push blood back up to your heart and lungs. Walking can strengthen this system because it helps build and preserve leg muscles which will help circulate your blood.
8. Better Sleep
The good thing about this benefit is that you can start experiencing better sleep right away. In fact, studies have shown that you can have better quality sleep the same night you start walking.
Another study in Sleep Health found that women especially had better sleep quality, not quantity when they increased their daily steps by 2,000. I know we could all use some more quality sleep. Who doesn’t want to wake up feeling refreshed? I know I often times wake up tired even after sleeping for 7 hours so I’m definitely going to try to move more to combat this problem.
9. Improves Mood
The last point is a good segway into this benefit since a better mood leads to a better night’s sleep. Walking has proven to help mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and even just a bad mood. This is because walking releases endorphins like any exercise.
Mental health is finally getting the recognition it deserves and it is SO important for everyone to focus on their mental health. As society leads us to look at our phones and move away from nature more and more, a daily walk is a great way to take a break from social media and just enjoy what is around you.
I’m not saying that walking can replace medicine or therapy if you suffer from depression or anxiety but it can help. You don’t have anything to lose from trying. I know if you do experience depression, it can be really hard to get up so a ten-minute walk can seem really daunting but if you can, that’s great.
For me, if I don’t workout I definitely feel less energetic and potentially more down so a daily walk is a good way to combat this, especially on rest days. When the pandemic hit last March, walking was a break from my apartment. I definitely felt better once I experienced some fresh air, it was like a reset for me.
10. Spark Creativity
A 2014 study down by Stanford found that when walking, your creative thinking skills increase by an average of 60%! So next time you have a problem you can’t figure out, go for a walk and get those creative juices flowing! The good news is that creativity increases both inside and outside so if it’s cold or rainy, you don’t have to brave the elements to spark some creativity.
This shows that walking meetings especially when having a brainstorming session may be more beneficial than sitting in a conference room. This is a great way to add steps into your workday.
11. Boosts Energy
Any physical activity will increase energy. This is because it increases oxygen flow in the body. The great thing about walking is that you can go for a quick 10-minute walk and get a burst of energy. If you’re feeling a little drowsy at your desk, go for a quick walk and you’ll be way more productive.
Walking can break up a boring day. I know whenever I force myself outside on a walk, it is a nice way to break up a day in front of the computer. After all, I don’t think anyone feels energized after looking at a screen for an extended period of time. If you do, please give us some tips 🙂
How to incorporate walking into your schedule
Any walking is better than no walking, right? If 10,000 steps seem daunting, don’t aim for 10,000. If you’re averaging around 5,000 steps, just try to hit 6,000 steps. Just one thousand more steps which would take you less than 10 minutes to accomplish. Then once you’re easily hitting 6,000 add 1,000 more and so forth until you’re at 10,000 steps!
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even if you decide to add one walk into your daily routine and never hit 10,000 steps, you’re doing better than when you weren’t walking at all.
Here are some ideas on how to add extra steps into your day:
- Park farther away when going to the grocery store, a restaurant, or shopping
- Walk up and down every aisle at the grocery store
- Go for an after lunch or dinner walk to help aid in digestion
- Drink a cup of water and go fill it whenever it is empty
- Take short ten minute walks to break up the workday
- Get up every hour and walk for one minute
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
- Have walking meetings
- When you’re on the phone, walk around
- If you ride the bus or subway, get off one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way
- Go on a hike with a friend
- Get a dog and take it for lots of walks
- Put the remote in another room and you have to get up to change the channel
- Put your phone in another room so you have to get up to check it. This may help mindless scrolling as well
- Walk during commercials
- Pace when you brush your teeth
And there you have it. Try to make walking part of your routine so it becomes easier with time. For those that love a schedule, put your daily walks on your calendar just like you would with an appointment or meeting.
There are many ways to add walking to your daily life. What are ways you get to your step goal?
As Hippocrates said “Walking is a man’s best medicine”. So get up and get walking.
Until next time,