A growing body of research shows that walking is an underrated form of exercise. But with the number of benefits walking offers people of all ages and capacity levels, fitness experts, physicians and care workers have realised their clients need to engage in walking more often.
The same can be said for the rest of us. We take walking for granted and don’t think of it as proper exercise if we are doing it every day. On the contrary, it’s because we walk every day that we should treat it more seriously as exercise.
Let’s not cheat here though guys. Don’t pretend that walking to walk gives you an excuse to skip the gym or earn you the right to have a double bacon sandwich. There are walking targets to achieve before you feel the full benefits.
The purpose of treating walking as a genuine exercise is to encourage you to exercise more. This is especially important for people that do not exercise enough already. An active lifestyle is one of the keys to health and longevity.
Let’s take a look at some studies.
Studies show that walking as little as 30 minutes a day could extend your lifespan. Surprising as that may seem, this study merely emphasises the importance of walking more often – rather than taking the car or public transport, for example.
When you look deeper into the studies you find that the number of steps you walk and the speed you walk are significant. For example, one study found that women that walk around 5000 steps a day live longer than women that only walk an average of 2,500 steps a day.
A similar study revealed that brisk walking can extend your life by as much as 16 years. Other health factors must come into play, however. A healthy diet, managing stress levels and not smoking all play a role.
Why is walking exercise?
It’s easy to scoff at walking as an exercise. However, fitness researchers show that brisk walking can burn as much fat as running. Walking is also less damaging to your joints than running and thus considered a better option for long-term health.
The purpose of exercising is to breathe more deeply. When you breathe deeply, you take more oxygen into your lungs which helps white blood cells create T-cells and improve your immunity.
Walking actually improves your immune system in several ways including lowering stress levels and promoting good mental health. Brisk walking is obviously better than a stroll, but walking uphill is also strenuous.
Researchers have also found that walking can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, manage diabetes, slow down the risk of Alzheimer’s and improve sleep.
Given the list of health benefits, it makes sense to go for planned walks more often – or at the very least take longer routes when you are actually going somewhere. Walking is a low-entry exercise, so if you don’t already have an exercise program, walking is a good place to start.