Carving out time for a workout, whether at home or the gym, is often easier said than done – especially after a hectic week at work. But what if we told you there’s a deceptively simple exercise routine that’s proven to improve both your mental and physical health?
As something you’ve been doing all your life, walking is the perfect way to kickstart your fitness journey.
The physical health benefits of walking
Walking might not look like intensive exercise, but its benefits may surprise you. In fact, a few walks a week can provide all sorts of impressive health benefits. As well as being an effective way to minimise the impact of chronic disease (PDF), a regular walking routine can help:
- increase muscle and bone strength
- improve endurance and balance
- reduce body fat
- reduce risk of heart disease and stroke
- manage diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
- relieve stiff joints and muscles
- improve management of chronic muscle pain.
The mental health benefits of walking
Walking in the great outdoors can also have impressive psychological benefits – there’s a reason they call it nature therapy, after all! A 2009 study found that walking in green spaces, such as forests, open countryside, and urban parks, can help your mental wellbeing by reducing:
- anxiety and depression
- feelings of dejection
- feelings of anger
Walking with a companion can also contribute to improved states of mental health, including a decreased sense of fatigue. So, not only can you squeeze in some valuable social time – you’ll also be working harder during your catch-up!
How to develop a walking routine
Like any other form of exercise, it’s often best to start slow and work your way up to a regular walking schedule if you feel a bit rusty. Before you set off on your first walk, you might want to consider these three important walking tips.
Your goal should be to walk for 30 minutes five days a week to maximise the physical and mental health benefits of walking. This won’t be easy for everyone at first, so it’s better to aim for more smaller sessions five days a week rather than irregular long walks.
Try walking for five or 10 minutes during your first week and increase the length of your walks by two minutes every week after that until you hit 30 minutes. This isn’t necessarily the ceiling, though. Feel free to increase your walks to 60 minutes if you feel comfortable doing so.
Pace is important
That doesn’t mean you should be trying to speed walk everywhere you go, as overexerting yourself can lead to injury. It’s perfectly fine to start with a slow walk and gradually move up to a brisker pace over time. Just make sure the last stretch of your walk is a slower cooldown.
Taking steps to better health
Walking is a convenient, effective, and satisfying way to improve your physical and mental health. And when starting out only takes a few minutes a day, it’s hard to say no!
If you're interested in discovering some exercise routines to complement your walking, talk to us today or book a tour to discover our extraordinary experiences!
As well as writing for health and lifestyle, Patrick is an avid walker – so you can be sure he knows his stuff. His biggest challenge thus far, the Aussie Camino, a 10-day walk spanning Victoria and South Australia.