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Walking wonder: the incredible benefits of this simple exercise

The incredible benefits of walking

Walking. A simple, yet effective and still highly underrated exercise. When you watch your kid taking its first steps in this world, you’re having a proud moment. You encourage your kid to take more steps, to walk a bit further. The kid itself starts enjoying the freedom walking provides and will gladly practice it as often as possible. Over the years we somewhat forget this important milestone and forget about all the advantages walking has given us. That’s why we are here. To remind you of all the benefits, both on your mental and physical health, that walking gives you.

Step by step, we’ll walk you through following areas:

Walking improves your cardiovascular health

Scientific research has shown that walking has a positive impact on your cardiovascular health10. For example, your (high) blood pressure (both systolic and diastolic) will reduce due to taking a regular walk1,2. That’s why the European Association of Preventive Cardiology and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Council recommend walking (among other aerobic exercises) in the management of hypertension3. Not only your blood pressure, but also your resting heart rate will improve1. This makes for a stronger heart and thus a reduced risk of heart disease (still the leading cause of death worldwide!)4,5.

Your body will thank you for your daily walking

Daily walking has many benefits

Besides your cardiovascular health, your body will also grow stronger because of walking. Your bone health is one thing that greatly benefits from weight-bearing exercises like walking. You’ll build stronger bones and slow down the decline in bone density (due to ageing)6,7. This will reduce your risk of falling7.

Another benefit of walking for your body concerns your joints. Walking will help with your joint pain (of your knees and hips), even if you have arthritis. And if you don’t have it, walking is a great prevention strategy4. Also in older adults, evidence shows that the benefits of walking will aid in preventing the general decline of physical function8.

The next great and important reason to start walking is that it improves your VO2-max (the maximum rate of oxygen your body is able to use during exercise)9. So, in other words: your stamina will increase and it will boost your energy1,4,10!

Lastly, your body’s immune function gets a positive boost due to walking. So, the chances of getting sick are lower + when you do get sick, the symptoms will be less severe4. That’s a double win, right?

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Walking is irreplaceable in your weight loss journey

Most people, at least at some point in their life, realize they should lose some weight. They usually start these crazy, restrictive diets and/or start going to the gym 6 days a week for 2 hours at a time. This might work to lose weight quickly, but it’s hardly sustainable and won’t give you long-term results. A way easier approach is to make small daily lifestyle changes. One of these changes that we recommend in our personal training programs is doing a daily walk. Quite some research has been done and has shown that regular walks have a positive impact on your body fat, BMI, total cholesterol, overall body weight, and waist circumference1,3,10. When you’re already diagnosed with obesity, walking is also recommended, because of previous mentioned benefits, but mind that being overweight or obese might limit your ability to walk for a longer duration and that you might be more prone to injuries8. Moderation, but consistency is key!

A subgroup analysis of a comparing research article (meta-analysis) showed that women over 50 years old, did not necessarily lose weight, but physical activity was associated with a reduction in waist circumference from an increase in fat-free mass3. This proves that the number on the weighing scale doesn’t always tell you the full story, keep that in mind.

Get more productive

Walking, and exercise in general, will increase your blood flow to both your brain and body. The increased blood flow to the brain, will lead to better cognitive performance11. This leads to higher creativity and creative thinking and a better concentration4,11.

Walking will also reduce tiredness (and boost your energy as mentioned before), leading to a better mental alertness10. So, next time you’re on a (lunch) break at work, take the time for a short walk and improve your performance at work!

Interestingly, walking has also been proven to help combat cravings and addiction12! If you’re having a real bad craving for let’s say, chocolate, go for a walk instead. Afterwards, they say the craving should have eased on you and not be top of your mind anymore.

Mental health benefits of walking

mental health benefits of walking

Something that can’t be overlooked, is your mental health. We live in a day and age where things feel rushed and demands are high, where there are so many problems in the world and in our personal lives that we are constantly under stress. This has a huge impact on our mental health, but also takes a toll on our physical health. That’s why we find it so important to not forget about mental well-being. One such recommendation is walking for your mental health. A walk will improve your mood because of the increased blood flow4,10. It will reduce any anxiety or tension felt, it reduces depression and a negative mood. It can also boost your self-esteem, important in order to do any self-care, and lower symptoms of social withdrawal (go for a walk with your friends for example)1,4.

It is also shown that organizing regular walks in group have even greater benefits on your mental health and on the commitment to keep going12. Other benefits of walking include a better sleep quality, calming your nerves and relieving you of your stress10. These three items will in turn have a positive impact on your mental health and an improved quality of life1. Isn’t that what we all want?

Special highlight on walking during pregnancy

One group of people I want to highlight here, a group that will definitely benefit from walking, is pregnant people. Pregnancy can be a beautiful time, but can also cause a lot of pains and aches and annoyances. Walking can provide some excellent benefits, both during pregnancy and labor as after your baby is born. Some of these benefits (not all of them extensively studied though) include13,14:

  • keeping a healthy weight and lower the risk of excessive weight gain,
  • lower risk of gestational diabetes,
  • increase or maintain cardiorespiratory fitness + fitness level,
  • lower risk of preeclampsia,
  • reduced length of labor and postpartum recovery,
  • lower risk of C-section, and
  • lower symptoms of postpartum depression.

Besides these benefits, walking will also keep your muscles strong (preventing or reducing lower back pain) and keep your bowels moving to aid in constipation. Walking also helps get rid of that extra baby weight after giving birth to that wonderful human being14.

Did you do your daily walk yet?

I hope after reading this post you understand how walking is a simple, yet very powerful form of exercise. With a daily dose of a 30-min walk you will improve your cardiovascular health, your bone and joint health, it will help with your weight loss journey, boost your productivity due to improved brain functioning and improve your mental health. Also, when you’re pregnant, walking has tremendous benefits.

Walking is highly underestimated, but you can do it anywhere, anytime and it’s free. So what are you waiting for? Put on those walking shoes, step out the door and discover the world of walking.

Note: mind that this blog post doesn’t replace professional medical advice or a personal consultation with RSPFIT.

Interested in more lifestyle changes to improve your life? Book a free consultation with RSPFIT and let’s discuss your goals and needs.

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overview of benefits of walking as exercise

Bibliography

  1. Hanson S, et al. Br J Sports Med 2015;49:710–715. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-094157
  2. Ruffine, J.S., Songsorn, P., Haggett, M., Edmonds, D., Robinson, A.M., Thompson, D., Vollaard, N.B.J. A comparison of the health benefits of reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training (REHIT) and moderate-intensity walking in type 2 diabetes patients. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism (2017). 42.2, pp. 202-208. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2016-0497.
  3. CMAJ 2022 November 7;194:E1460-80. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.220138
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-walking
  5. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/bone-health/art-20045060
  7. https://americanbonehealth.org/exercise/bonesense-on-walking-and-bone-health/
  8. ASOI Adult Obesity Clinical Practice Guideline adaptation (ASOI version 1, 2022) by: Dunlevy C, Gregg E, Woods C, O’Malley G. Chapter adapted from: Boulé NG, Prud’homme D. Available from: https://asoi.info/guidelines/physicalactivity/ Accessed 5/6/2023.
  9. https://www.healthline.com/health/vo2-max
  10. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/mental-benefits-of-walking
  11. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/experience-engineering/202001/how-walking-enhances-cognitive-performance
  12. https://www.psychologies.co.uk/walking-mental-health/
  13. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018.
  14. https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/walking-during-pregnancy#talk-with-a-doctor

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