When we think of exercise, we usually think about hitting the elliptical and lifting heavy weights for hours on end every week. While this can absolutely help you get into better physical condition, many of us are forgetting one of the most simple and essential ways to stay active: walking. Walking is an underrated form of exercise that provides numerous health benefits, and the best part is that it can be easily added into your day no matter where you are.
As we age, sedentary behaviors begin to seep in more and more, which can contribute to poor heart health over time. Our heart is a muscle, which means we need to challenge it to keep it strong and efficient. Even something as simple as walking can help! This level of exercise still gets the heart working harder to pump blood around the body, which can lead to improved circulation (1). The more we train our heart, the more efficiently it is able to do its job. As we exercise, we strengthen our heart, and as a result it is able to pump more blood with every beat (1). Not only does it lower your resting heart rate, but brisk walking for 30 minutes per day has been found to lower blood pressure, which can help protect against the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke (2). By taking a short walk a few times a week, you can support a happy, healthy heart!
Walking not only supports better physical health but also improves mental health and mood. Even at a leisurely pace, walking stimulates the central nervous system which results in a reduction in feelings of depression or anxiety and an increase in positive emotions (3). While intense bouts of exercise can also contribute to improved mood (thanks, endorphins!), this type of light to moderate activity has also been found to promote improved mental wellbeing. Even a 10 to 15 minute brisk bout of walking can lead to greater feelings of calmness and less feelings of tension and anxiety (2). This makes walking an exceptional alternative to intense exercise when it comes to staying healthy both in the mind and the body!
With all of the madness of daily life, it can sometimes feel like a challenge to squeeze in time for exercise. More often than we like, our busy lives keep us from making it to the gym, but no matter where you are or what you have going on, you can always break away from the chaos with a walk. So next time you feel the need to get moving, step outside and take a stroll. Your mind and body will thank you for it!