You do it as you go from your car to your office. When you take a stroll around the block with your dog. Yes, you even do it when moving from your couch to the fridge for a snack. And you really get your walking steps in when you’re mowing the lawn or cleaning your home.
In fact, it’s something that we do consistently throughout the day without thinking.
And did you know, research shows that walking at a brisk pace for about 30 minutes a day leads to long-term health benefits? Health benefits include reducing your risk of heart disease. Now that’s good to know!
The benefits of walking
Even making a small increase in how often you walk every day can lead to some positive health advantages.
Decrease your risk of heart disease.
The benefits of having your boots on the ground for 30 minutes a day include decreasing your resting heart rate, lowering your blood pressure and LDL (your “bad” cholesterol), and strengthening your heart. That daily tour around the block makes your heart more efficient with each step.
What is more, the heel-toe-express can improve blood sugar levels and assist in the management of diabetes or help prevent it altogether!
A stroll lowers our level of stress.
If you’ve ever gone out for a stroll after a stressful situation and come back calmer and more collected, you know firsthand how walking benefits you.
Our lives are full of stressful situations. We’re juggling multiple roles at home and work. As a result, it can all feel overwhelming.
Simply putting one foot in front of the other can help. It gets your heart rate up and brings your stress level down.
And studies confirm that walking boosts your mood, by releasing your body’s happy endorphins.
Helps you to maintain a healthy weight.
Getting your steps in is also one of the best exercises for weight management. It’s relatively simple to do, easy on the joints, it’s free and you have to do it every day anyway!
In fact, a brisk 30-minute scoot can burn upwards of 200 calories per day.
Once you’ve mastered 30-mins, increase your duration, frequency, or intensity daily or weekly. The benefits you reap will increase with every step you take.
Do be mindful though. Avoid increasing your mileage and/or time by more than 10% weekly so you avoid setbacks and injuries.
Walking reduces our blood sugar levels.
Our blood sugar levels change throughout the day — ranging from high to low as our bodies try to manage the amount of insulin we need. The goal is to try to keep those blood sugar levels consistent, which can help keep us from feeling thirsty and tired after we eat (hello, post-lunch crash.)
So, what can you do? If you just finished eating, try taking a short walk. Research shows that getting up and moving for just two to five minutes after a meal lowers your blood sugar.
Improves your immune system.
Trying to avoid getting a cold or the flu? Walking can help support your immune system.
By increasing your blood flow, reducing stress, and strengthening your body’s antibodies, you’re keeping your immune system strong whenever it’s needed to fight viruses or bacteria.
Protects our joints.
As you walk, you lubricate and strengthen your muscles and increase blood flow to your cartilage.
And this can be especially beneficial for people with arthritis. A morning stroll is a low-impact way to exercise, and it helps keep your joints flexible.
Lesson those cravings!
Cravings, in general, are usually bad news for people. Craved-for-foods tend to be calorie-dense, fatty, or sugary, with a chocolate topping that list.
But research shows that you can curtail the hankering for sugar, both during a walk and for about 10 minutes afterward.
By taking a short walk, you can adjust your daily sugary treats intake often by as much as half.
Reduce the risk of cancer.
Research shows that two and a half to five hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week, which includes walking, can help reduce your risk of certain cancers.
Walking improves sleep.
Honestly, most of us aren’t getting enough sleep. It’s recommended that we get between seven and nine hours each night.
Pounding the pavement can help improve the quality of sleep you get each night. Just another reason it pays to increase how many steps we take each day.
How to start
It’s time to reap the benefits of walking daily.
Walking is, in fact, the easiest type of exercise. We walk every day, it’s a free activity, and all you need is a good pair of shoes. Or maybe not? Spoiler alert, we challenge the ‘good pair of shoes’ comment later in this post. So, keep reading.
There are many different ways for you to walk.
- You can march in place.
- Meander through the park.
- Go a mile or two on a treadmill.
- Roam around the mall.
- Take a foot tour.
- Or how about a hike in the woods?
Here are some other tips to help you start and maintain a daily routine:
If you’re just starting, don’t push yourself too hard. Any kind of physical activity will be a stress on your body, so you need to give yourself time to adapt.
Remember, avoid increasing your mileage and/or time by more than 10% weekly so you avoid setbacks and injuries.
A slow start will help with sustainability and will lead to small wins along the way. Also, if you’re not used to exercising, the biggest risk is an injury.
Track your steps.
Using an app that features a pedometer is key to your success.
People who love their apps or pedometers log a reported 2,000 more steps per day. Why? The reward comes from witnessing your success in real time and enjoying the mental reward of celebrating your step-by-step accomplishments.
Find a walking buddy.
To make your walkout feel easier, ask someone to join you. Walking together offers many positives for our collective mental health too.
It significantly reduces any loneliness and isolation that you may be feeling.
When you’re putting in the miles with a buddy, you’re bound to enjoy your workout more by talking, connecting, and sharing the experience.
Not to mention that sharing a walk makes you focus less on physical exertion as you chat with your walking partner.
And your buddy doesn’t have to be a human. What about prowling the streets with a four-legged escort?
Give yourself an incentive.
A new eBook you’re interested in just came out or the latest episode of your favorite podcast is available. Make it a priority to take a walk as you listen to those.
If you have particular songs that you enjoy listening to, save your favorites for those walks as an incentive.
Don’t be hard on yourself!
You may want to have a very specific schedule on when you walk and for how long. But make sure you give yourself some flexibility — life happens, and you may miss a day.
But the more habitual you are about it, the easier it is to build on duration and intensity.
Like anything, practice makes perfect.
Now, let’s talk about the benefits of walking barefoot!
Being barefoot might be something you only do at home. But for many, walking and exercising barefoot is a practice they do daily.
When a toddler is learning to walk, parents are told to let this process happen naturally, and without shoes. That’s because shoes can affect how a child uses the muscles and bones in their feet.
Kids also receive feedback from the ground when they pitter-patter barefoot, and it improves their proprioception (awareness of their body in space). But, as a child gets older, they shove their feet into shoes and lose the benefits that come from being barefoot.
That’s why advocates of being barefoot are pushing back on wearing shoes all day long and encouraging all of us to let our feet be free.
What are the benefits of walking barefoot?
Walking barefoot restores your natural gait.
That’s right, the most straightforward benefit to being barefoot is that it restores our ‘natural’ gait.
Running or walking shoes have excessive cushioning and support that feel great on our feet. However, they prevent us from using certain muscle groups that actually strengthen our bodies.
Other benefits of being barefoot include:
- Better control of your foot position when it strikes the ground.
- Improvements in balance, and body awareness, which can also help with pain relief.
- Additionally, better foot mechanics, which can lead to improved mechanics of the hips, knees, and core.
- Last but not least, stronger leg muscles, which support the lower back region.
Walking, the bottom line
The bottom line is, whether you wear shoes or set your feet free, walking is good for our souls.
A special addition to this post!
9 Foot Exercises to Try at Home
- Toe raise, point, and curl
- Toe splay
- Toe extension
- Toe curls
- Marble pickup
- Big-toe stretch
- Tennis ball roll
- Achilles stretch
- Sand walking
Why foot exercises matter.
Keeping your feet strong and flexible can help reduce foot and ankle pain, reduce muscle soreness, improve your overall foot health, and keep you active.
Sources-Cleveland Clinic & Health Line
Hope you enjoyed this post brought to you by the Wills Wellness Committee
As a final point, remember “walking is how the body measures itself against the earth.” – Rebecca Solnit