Five reasons to walk more

by Ali on September 10, 2008

A year or two ago, everyone was talking about the “10,000 steps a day” target – walking 10,000 steps each day (about five miles) is supposed to be great for your health.

But it’s easy to wonder whether walking’s really worth it – after all, the latest government exercise guidelines recommend that we do “Thirty minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week”. You have to be walking fairly briskly for it to count as “moderate”.

Despite this, walking is one of the best exercises for many busy office workers, and here’s the five reasons why…

1. Walking has real physical benefits

The Ramblers say that:

Whether you want to walk to improve your general health, to keep fit, to control your weight, or perhaps to recover from a period of ill-health, walking can help.

They list the results from a number of studies which show walking can:

  • Reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer of the colon
  • Lower your blood pressure (especially important for those of us in stressful jobs!)
  • Reduce body fat and high cholesterol levels
  • Increase bone density, to help prevent osteoporosis in later life

… and quite a bit more besides!

If you have a thirty minute walk twice a day, at a moderate pace of 3 mph (perhaps on your way to work and on your way home) you’ll be burning up:

  • 240 calories if you weigh 150lb (10 stone 10 lbs)
  • 304 calories if you weigh 190lbs (13 stone 8 lbs)
  • 416 calories if you weigh 260lbs (18 stone 8 lbs)

When you’re dieting, and every calorie counts, burning an extra 250+ calories per day means losing an extra half a pound every week: definitely a bonus over the long term.

2. Walking is easy to fit into your day

One of the hardest things for many of us about exercise is simply fitting it in. It’s not always convenient to get to the gym, due to the time commitment required (where you’ll waste at least 20 minutes getting there and changing, and another 20-30 minutes showering and changing back afterwards) – you usually need at least a couple of hours free to make it worthwhile.

Walking, however, fits in easily. You could get your thirty minutes of walking twice a day by using some of these methods:

  • Walking to work instead of getting the bus, if you live nearby … or getting off the tube or tram a couple of stops earlier and walking
  • Nipping out of the office for a walk in your lunch-hour – even if it’s just around the block a few times
  • Going out for a post-dinner stroll with your partner in the evening
  • Walking to the grocery store instead of driving (carrying those heavy bags back will help build your arm muscles – and burns a few extra calories!)

3. Walking is sociable

You can walk and talk – far more easily than you can hold a conversation on the treadmill, on the tennis court or in gym class. If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy exercise for its own sake, the social aspects of walking make it an ideal activity. How about:

  • Encouraging colleagues to join you on a lunch-time stroll around a local park
  • Walking to work with an office mate, if anyone lives in the same direction as you
  • Meeting a friend after work for a walk instead of a drink!
  • Going out with your partner in the evening
  • Taking your kids on a long ramble through local woodland at the weekend
  • Inviting your mum, dad, aunt (etc…) on a walk instead of letting them ask you round for tea and cake

If you don’t have anyone to walk with, you might want to look for local walking or rambling groups (here in London, lots of these meet in local parks). You might find that walking is a great way to meet some new friends.

4. Walking doesn’t require any special kit

It’s not just the time factor that can put you off going to the gym, but also the need to cart around your kit, trainers, towel and toiletries. One of the biggest advantages of walking, as opposed to other forms of exercise, is that you don’t need any special kit.

Of course, comfortable shoes and clothing that you can take a good stride in (skirts can be quite restrictive) are a must – but you don’t really need trainers and sports gear if you’re only walking at a moderate pace for half an hour.

5. Walking saves you money

In these budget-conscious times, expensive health club memberships, regular personal training sessions and pricy gym classes are often luxuries that we have to cut back on. Walking is absolutely free – you don’t need to fork out for kit, or for any fees, in order to walk.

You could even find yourself saving money – when you walk instead of getting the bus or train, or taking your car, you’ll not be spending any money for transport.

BONUS reason 6: Walking will make you happier!

All forms of moderate to vigorous exercise make you feel less stressed, more relaxed and calmer – due to the “happy hormones” that flow around your body once you’ve been active for twenty minutes or so. But walking can have further mental health benefits:

  • It’s a great way to spend quality time chatting with loved ones. When you’re out for a walk, you’ll find that you have much more in-depth, meaningful, conversations than when you’re both rushing around at home trying to get chores done.
  • Walking lets you get away from it all. If you can, escape from your desk when things get stressful and take a ten-minute walk. It’s a great way to get perspective and to calm down.
  • You can explore the natural world around you whilst walking. It’s easy to feel hemmed in by buildings and streets; try walking in the countryside, or around a big park nearby, and enjoy being amongst trees and treading on grass or soil instead of concrete.

Look at your diary for tomorrow – where can you fit in two thirty-minute walks? If you’re really struggling to find a gap, why not get up half an hour earlier and go for a dawn walk before the rest of the world is awake? Whatever time of day you walk, make it an enjoyable break and something you’ll want to fit into your schedule on a daily basis.

(Image above from Flickr by uhduh.)

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