Walking is a rather underrated form of exercise if you ask me, and it’s easy to see why. There’s no cool studio to attend, no kit required and it’s pretty hard to get a good Instagram photo of you just walking along the street. If someone asks what your go-to work out is, and you declare you’re a walker, it’s unlikely to make an impression, but maybe it’s time to rethink how you stay active, as walking really is one of the best (and cheapest!) ways to look after both your mental and physical health.
I had a caesarean section 4 weeks ago which slightly scuppered my post-partum fitness goals. The recovery has been a hugely humbling experience- never before have I found it so hard just to walk down the street, or sit up in bed. I’m starting completely from scratch, which is both exciting and hugely daunting at the same time. I’m hoping to be running again soon, but it’s impossible at this stage to say when that will be and how hard I’ll find it, so in the meantime, I’ve had to find an alternative- walking! I’ve been going out for long walks daily with the baby in the pram, aiming for a minimum of 10000 steps. I’ve lost a lot of fitness and it most definitely feels like a workout, which is exactly what I want.
So, I thought I’d give a little shoutout to this humble exercise. Here’s why I think everyone should get their walking shoes on…
It’s Easy and Cheap!
Regular exercise has so many health benefits, yet in the UK, there’s still a huge number of people that are inactive. Recent figures showed that 29% of adults in England take less than 30 minutes of moderate exercise each week, which is a scarily high number. There are a variety of reasons people don’t exercise, but common ones include financial barriers, time restrictions and lack of confidence. Walking regularly is one of the best ways to overcome all of these- it’s totally free, can be built easily into a busy schedule and no- one needs to know you’re working out!
It provides a huge range of physical health benefits…
As well as helping you lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight, regular walking is shown to improve blood pressure, lower your resting heart rate and reduce cholesterol- all of which reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Walking counts as a weight bearing exercise, which improves bone health, helping prevent osteoporosis. It’s also has the added perk of being a great fat burner and easy way to tone the thighs and bum- I’m definitely not complaining!
And it’s great for mental health too.
You don’t need a clinical trial to tell you that going for a walk can boost your mood- but there are plenty that will! Whether you’re just having a bad day, or suffer from depression or anxiety, regular walking can really help. It’s actually been shown that people with depression who exercise regularly by walking have significant improvement in their symptoms.
It’s a great way to explore…
In the few weeks that I’ve been walking daily, I’ve definitely got to know my local area better. I’ve explored the parks, found new coffee shops to try, and earmarked restaurants I want to return to.
And it’s really social too.
When I run with someone else I find it hard to have a proper conversation, I’m just too breathless- the socialising usually happens before or after the run. If you go walking with someone, you can have a proper chat whilst exercising. I often use it as an opportunity to make some phone calls on my hands free as well, which saves me time later on.
How much walking do you need to do?
10000 steps a day is a figure that’s often used, but have you ever wondered where it came from? It turns out it, this target isn’t scientific at all. In the lead up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the Japanese became more interested in the benefits of keeping fit and pedometers became all the range. One particular pedometer was called manpo-kei, which means 10,000 step meter, and so the craze with reaching 10000 steps began. Since then, it’s been widely used as a bench mark figure for how much walking you should do- so random!
Despite it being a rather arbitrary figure, I find 10000 steps to be a great target and works out around 4.5 miles for me. I need to be consciously active to reach it, but it’s an attainable daily goal and easy to achieve if I put my mind to it. The important thing is not to be sedentary, the exact number of steps isn’t that important.
The NHS advises at least 150 minutes of fast walking every week, which equates to a 30 minute walk 5 days a week, a goal most people could easily achieve.
How you get your steps doesn’t matter- work them into your daily commute, head out with a friend at lunch, or jump on a treadmill in the gym, it’s being active that matters!