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What are The Health Benefits of Walking

  • Dec 08, 2022
  • Fitness

Man walking with his son in the woods

During the Covid-19 pandemic, walking may have become a large part of your daily routine to get out of the house and get some much-needed exercise. However, since then, for many of us, our lives have returned to normal, and a brisk walk no longer forms part of our daily routine.

It is worth remembering that walking is one of the simplest ways to get active. It’s a low impact form of exercise that helps you to get fitter and feel stronger while burning calories at the same time. In this article, we will look at some of the many health benefits of walking and how it can aid a healthier, happier life.

Before setting off

Walking should be a pleasant experience so it’s important to make sure you have suitable clothing and footwear. Your shoes, walking boots or trainers should be comfortable and provide adequate support for where you intend to walk. Clothes should be weather appropriate, and you may wish to take a water bottle, hat, and energy snacks for longer walks. If walking at night or in poor visibility, wear bright colours, head torch or a high-visibility vest to ensure others can see you.

Health benefits of walking

Walking is one of the easiest exercises you can do as it is low impact and can aid in weight loss and promotes a healthier lifestyle. Below are six main health benefits of walking.

1. Burns calories

Regular walking is a great way to burn calories and can help lose weight. How many calories you lose depends on how fast you walk and for how long. For example, according to WCRF’s exercise calorie calculator, walking normally for 30 minutes is estimated to burn 147 calories for someone weighing 185lb/84kg. The brisker the walk and the steeper the incline, the more calories you will burn.

Read our article Achieving and maintaining your healthy weight for more healthy tips on how to lose and manage your weight. 

2. It could make your heart healthier

Walking at even a slower pace increases blood flow throughout the body which can help to strengthen your heart, lower blood pressure, lift your heart rate and reduce the risk of heart disease. To learn more about high blood pressure, you may find our article Raising awareness of high blood pressure useful.

3. It may boost your energy

Many of us rely on our morning cup of coffee to give us our daily energy boost, but walking is a healthier, calorie-free way to achieve the same result. This form of exercise boosts oxygen circulation in the body, allowing your body to function more effectively and to use energy more efficiently. A moderate or brisk walk releases endorphin’s which can leave you feeling energised, refreshed and more positive.

4. It may contribute to a longer life

There is evidence to suggest that walking can help you live longer and reduce the risk of an early death. According to Healthline, people who walk more each day have a significantly lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who are generally less active and you don’t have to walk for hours to get the benefits. Even a brisk 10 minute walk can make a difference and counts towards your weekly 150 minutes of exercise, as recommended by the NHS.

5. It may improve sleep

According to The Sleep Charity, moderate and aerobic exercise such as walking or swimming has been known to help people fall asleep quicker. If you are struggling to sleep, it is recommended to aim for 20-30 minutes of walking per week. However, the NHS recommends not exercising for at least 4 hours before bedtime as exercising too close to bedtime could cause adverse effects and leave you feeling more awake.

6. Supports your mental health

Walking not only improves your physical health, but it can also have a positive effect on your mental health. As we walk, our body produces the hormones known as endorphins which naturally relieves pain, boosts mood, and lowers stress levels. Similarly, walking increases blood flow throughout the body, helping us feel more energised and refreshed.

Walking can also be a great social activity which is important for mental health, especially if you work from home or have limited social interaction elsewhere. A walk in the park or out in the countryside is a great way to spend time with others in a natural, relaxed environment.

Make walking part of your daily routine

If you struggle to make walking part of your daily routine or find it hard to stay motivated, there are steps you can take to make walking a habit rather than a chore. 

  • Walk at the same time each day so it becomes as important part of your day as brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
  • Leave the car at home and walk to work or to the shops.
  • If you work from home, take a short morning walk.
  • Turn it into a social activity and take regular walks with friends or even join a local walking group. 
  • Find some music or a podcast you enjoy to help you stay motivated and engaged during your walk.
  • Download the NHS Active 10 Walking Tracker app which allows you to set goals and track your steps.

For other ways to improve your mental health, why not take a look at our article Simple ways to boost your energy and mood.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.