The health benefits of walking
The New Year always serves as a reminder to recalibrate upcoming calendar goals, whether that’s focusing on healthy eating or incorporating more exercise into your routine. When most people hear the word exercise, it’s easy to associate it with running, cycling, weight lifting, or other strenuous activities as a way to stay healthy.
But walking has its own health benefits, especially when done every day. We’ll discuss how walking can improve various aspects of your mental and physical health, and whether you really need to take 10,000 steps a day to feel the benefits.
The benefits of daily walking
For people who don’t like to run or cycle, a brisk walk every day can be beneficial for your entire body, from your mood and memory, to your bones and joints. In fact, walking five to six miles a week can keep your joints strong and lubricated to help reduce arthritis symptoms.
You might not usually associate walking with weight loss, but it can be an important part of your weight loss journey when paired with diet. From a mental health standpoint, walking every day can also help reduce stress and improve your sleep patterns.
Any type of exercise is good for your heart health, and regular walking is a great way to manage heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. Studies have also shown that walking every day can lower your risk of weight gain and breast cancer, and help boost immune system function.
The human body has dozens and dozens of obesity-promoting genes associated with body mass index that can lead to weight gain. Researchers at Harvard University found that the effects of these genes were halved by people who walked at a moderate pace for an hour each day.
Years ago, the American Cancer Society published a study that found that women who walked at least seven hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer compared to those who walked three hours or less per week.
Walking 20 minutes a day, five days a week was also associated with 43% fewer sick days compared to people who only walked once a week.
How many calories do you burn walking a mile?
The number of calories you burn while walking depends on your pace, weight, and distance traveled. For example, a 125 pound person will not burn as many calories as a 185 pound person. You will also burn more calories the faster you walk or the further you walk.
Here are some examples, according to Harvard Health.
17 minute pace
- 125-pound person: 107 calories
- 155-pound person: 133 calories
- 185 pound person: 159 calories
15 minute mile
- 125-pound person: 135 calories
- 155-pound person: 175 calories
- 185 pound person: 189 calories
How many kilometers do I have to cover per day?
With the rise in popularity of pedometers, Apple Watches, and FitBits, many Americans are focusing more on their step count than ever before.
In the past, 10,000 steps were the magic number to walk each day. This translates to 4 to 5 miles, depending on the person and the length of the stride. However, a study published in JAMA network open found that just 7,000 steps per day had a 50-70% lower risk of premature death. The study was also comprehensive, as it followed more than 2,000 people for almost 11 years on average.
Although this is only a study, some experts believe that 10,000 Steps were created purely as a marketing tool and a flexible goal to set. as opposed to a hard rule.
Instead of focusing on the number of steps, aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, as recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
How to walk
Walking may seem like a simple task since we all do it every day, but there is a right way and a wrong way to walk.
Adopt good posture
To maximize your benefits, you’ll need to make sure you’re walking in good posture and having the correct stride length – too short a stride will result in jerky steps, while too long can be more taxing on your feet and lower body. .
Hold your head straight above your shoulders, being careful not to tilt it down – that means not looking at your phone while walking! Relax your shoulders, neck and back and keep them in a natural position.
With each step, swing your arms and bend your elbows slightly. You want your arms and hands to be relaxed, but not so relaxed that they are hanging down by your side. Engage your heart as you walk. You can train by contracting your abdominal muscles as if you are about to receive a punch. In terms of kicking the foot, roll your foot from heel to toe smoothly.
If you plan to walk several miles a day, it pays to invest in quality shoes that can support the arch and cushion your feet. Comfortable, but slightly loose clothing, is good for walking.
Start with small goals
For those new to walking, start slowly with small goals and work your way up. Take a five-minute walk during your lunch break or when you come home from work. Even if it’s only a few blocks, everyone has to start somewhere! Sooner or later two blocks will become two miles and your stamina and endurance will amaze you.
You will notice the health benefits when you start increasing your distance and duration. Once you can walk several miles at a time, focus on increasing your pace to reduce the time it takes to cover a mile. The faster you walk, the better the workout your heart receives.
Change your routine
Try to incorporate interval walking as you progress through your trip. For example, walk at your normal pace for five minutes, followed by a faster pace for two to three minutes before returning to your basic pace. Shifting can burn more calories than your typical leisurely walk.
If you ever find your walking routine boring, change your surroundings by walking in a park or neighborhood different from yours. A walking route with hills or an incline can offer you a welcome change of pace that will also increase your heart rate.
For more health topics and fitness tips visit the INTEGRIS Health For You blog.