Walking Your Way to Wellbeing

In a world filled with advanced fitness trends and complex workout routines, there’s one age-old activity that stands out as accessible, enjoyable, and immensely beneficial and that’s walking. Walking packs a mighty punch when it comes to your health and wellbeing.  Before you switch off, we’re not talking about endless loops around the block – let’s paint a different picture. Imagine breathing fresh, crisp air into your lungs, sunlight playing through leaves or reflecting off water, and the rhythm of your steps echoing a quiet sense of accomplishment …..just one of many possible scenarios to your walk.  Walking can be tailored to any fitness level making it an ideal starting point for anyone looking to embark on a journey to better health.

Health Powerhouse

Don’t be fooled by its seeming simplicity as the benefits of walking are huge. Mounting evidence confirms a daily walk’s multidimensional powers are nearly unmatched by any other lifestyle behaviour.

  • Heart Health: A brisk walk gets your heart pumping, strengthening it and reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and even type 2 diabetes. Regular walking helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and improve blood sugar regulation. Just 30 minutes of daily walking reduces early death and cardiovascular event risks by nearly 20%.
  • Mood Master: Feeling stressed? Walk it off! Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, nature has a calming effect, and even the sun on your skin boosts your mood. A study by the University of Essex found that walking in nature significantly reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety in participants.
  • Great for muscles and bones: Walking is a weight bearing exercise which is good for your bones helping to make them stronger and reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Regular walking helps keep your musculoskeletal system mobile, helps improve balance and coordination which all help to reduce your risk of falls and fractures.
  • Sleep Savior: Regular walks can help regulate your sleep patterns, sending you drifting off to dreamland faster and deeper. A study by the National Institutes of Health found that moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking, improved sleep quality in older adults.
  • Weight Management: A 30-minute daily walk, combined with a balanced diet, can aid in weight management. Given the rising rates of overweight and obesity posing an increased risk of other long term health problems, this simple habit could be a game-changer for many.
  • Reduced mortality risk: The more steps you take the better for you. A study led by Pedro Saint-Maurice, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, published in March 2020 looked into the benefits of the number of steps taken. They found that, compared with taking 4,000 steps per day, a number considered to be low for adults, taking 8,000 steps per day was associated with a 51% lower risk for all-cause mortality (or death from all causes). And taking 12,000 steps per day was associated with a 65% lower risk compared with taking 4,000 steps – so more is better.

Gear Up for Adventure:

Walking is refreshingly straightforward and is about accessibility, not extravagance. Unlike activities demanding expensive gear or gym memberships, walking requires minimal equipment. All you need is comfy shoes and investing in a good pair of supportive shoes that cushion your feet will help make those miles melt away.  You’ll also need clothing appropriate for the weather and visibility. Dress in layers for temperature changes and make sure you’re visible in low light.  And protect yourself from the sun’s rays with a hat and sunscreen especially during summer walks.  If you plan on going out for more than an hour then think about taking a reusable water bottle to stay refreshed on the go.

Where to walk?

The beauty of walking lies in its boundless possibilities. Ditch the same old pavement route and explore a world of walking adventures:

  • Embrace the countryside: Hike through rolling hills, meander along woodland paths, or follow a riverside, breathing in the fresh air and let nature work its magic.
  • Explore your city: Discover hidden alleyways, uncover charming neighbourhoods, and soak up the urban energy, as a city always has more to offer than you think. Look out for plaques on walls telling snippets of local history. You’ll be surprised what you can find.
  • Visit a coastal area: Breathe the salty air and listen to the waves, either gently lapping to and fro or crashing hard into rocks on a blustery day. A sandy beach might invite you to take off your shoes and walk with the feeling of sand between your toes.
  • Is there a local park? Escape the hustle and bustle in a green haven. Discover secret gardens, meander through tree-lined avenues, and listen to the symphony of birdsong.

Walking with Friends

Sharing the journey makes it even more fulfilling. There are added health benefits to spending time with others as the experience of social connection releases feelgood hormones and chemicals that further enhance your wellbeing. Check out these options for a boost of social connection:

  • Join a walking group: Find a group that caters to your interests, be it nature walks, historical tours, or fitness-focused hikes. The UK Ramblers Association and local community centres often organise group walks. Many communities also host walking challenges or group walks to encourage physical activity and you’ll generally find details in a local library or from your local council.
  • Buddy up: Grab a friend, family member, or even your furry companion and head out for an adventure. Conversation flows naturally, making the steps fly by.
  • Make it part of your routine: Turn your daily commute into a walk, meet a friend for a lunchtime stroll, or end your day with a family walk – weave it into your life like a healthy habit.
  • Monitor step counts and distance covered using fitness devices and mobile phone apps introducing friendly competition.

Your Journey Starts with a Single Step

Walking isn’t just a physical activity; it’s a powerful catalyst for positive change. Whether you’re aiming to boost your cardiovascular health, manage weight, or simply enjoy the mental clarity that walking brings, the benefits are undeniable. So, if you’ve never considered the transformative power of a walk, now is the perfect time to step into a healthier you. It’s more than just putting one foot in front of the other, it’s a gateway to a healthier, happier you. It’s an invitation to explore the world around you, reconnect with nature, and discover hidden corners of your own city. It’s about building community, finding your pace, and celebrating the simple joy of movement. Lace up those shoes, breathe in the fresh air, and let the journey begin – one step at a time. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.