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If you want to stay healthy, then it is important to get up off of the couch and get some exercise regularly. One of the easiest and most simple forms of exercise that you can do is to take a walk. There are some great health benefits of walking that you can experience when you begin to walk regularly!
Let me just say that I love walking! I lived a very sedentary lifestyle for a lot of my adult life. So when I decided to begin improving my health, the first thing I did was begin to walk regularly.
The good news is that walking doesn’t require expensive equipment to do. The only thing you do need is a good pair of walking shoes. And there are certainly plenty of places where you can walk without paying anything. I walk around my neighborhood quite a bit. But my favorite place to walk is at my local state park. There is a park less than 15 minutes from my house. Spending time out in nature, whether walking or not can help reduce stress.
You can also walk by yourself…or with family members, friends, or colleagues. Of course, walking is very beneficial for your overall health as well!
Health benefits of walking regularly
Boosts the immune system
When you are active and move regularly the body responds by releasing white blood cells. White blood cells help you by attacking and killing viruses and bacteria that may be attempting to infect your body. But regular exercise also has been shown to reduce stress. Since chronic stress lowers your immune system, having less stress can help keep your immune system functioning the way it should. Any time you experience stress, your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. As cortisol circulates through your bloodstream it stresses the immune system leading. This causes your immune system to function at a reduced level. But walking daily lowers stress and helps to bring cortisol levels back to normal. This in turn allows your immune system to function the way it should!
Balances blood sugar
Walking prompts your body to begin using the glucose that is stored in your body as an energy source. This can lower your blood sugar levels. The best way to use this benefit is to take a walk after a meal. It only takes 15 minutes of walking to impact blood sugar levels. This can even prevent your blood sugar from spiking after a meal. And regular walking may help prevent type 2 diabetes, which is great news for those who struggle with insulin resistance or obesity.
Supports healthy joints
As someone who has struggled with joint pain, I can tell you that it is no fun! But getting off the couch and walking regularly can help to strengthen joints. Blood doesn’t flow to the cartilage in your joints. Because of this, they rely on joint fluid to provide important nutrients and oxygen to the cartilage. This fluid is circulated through the joint when we move. So walking regularly allows your joints to get the nutrients they need so that you can avoid joint pain!
Boosts brain health
When you walk regularly, the circulation to your brain increases. This brings more oxygen and vital nutrients to the brain that are necessary for your brain to function well. Having more oxygen in your brain can keep you sharp mentally. It may also help to improve your attention and focus. Getting the right vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to your brain can also reduce your risk of developing chronic brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Improves your mood
We all have those times when we feel a little down or a bit anxious. When those feelings hit, taking a walk can help! Walking for at least 12 minutes can reduce the stress hormone cortisol. But it also releases the feel-good chemicals in your brain, known as endorphins. So just getting a short walk can reduce the blues and get you back to feeling better quickly!
Help you get better sleep
Do you ever struggle to get to sleep, stay asleep, or not get enough sleep? It is far more common than you may think! But walking regularly can help to improve your sleep. Those who walk regularly have reported that they tend to fall asleep more quickly than those who stay on the couch all day. They also stay asleep longer each night. Walking is the perfect way to treat chronic insomnia too.
Improves muscle strength
When it comes to your muscles, if you don’t use them you’ll lose them. The more sedentary you are, the weaker your muscles will be. The good news is that when you start walking regularly it helps to strengthen the muscles. Muscles in the ankles, calves, thighs, hips, buttocks, abdominal muscles and arms all benefit from walking. And walking regularly also builds endurance in the muscles. This may even help to prevent fatigue!
If you want to be your healthiest then it is important to have good circulation! Getting your blood moving is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health. The blood in your body acts as a carrier for important vitamins, minerals, and oxygen. It’s the blood that helps to get nutrients from the food you eat to every cell that needs it.
If you have bad circulation, you will most likely feel it in your hands, arms, feet, and legs first. Poor circulation causes symptoms like the feeling of pins and needles or coldness in the hands and feet. But you could experience other symptoms as well. Common symptoms of bad circulation include dry skin, fatigue, and even dizziness. When you begin to walk for at least 30 minutes a day, your circulation can improve. If you have a job where you sit a lot, this is especially important!
Walking can be done by almost everyone!
The great thing about walking as exercise is that it’s accessible to most people. You don’t have to be in amazing shape to walk. If you can walk, then you can begin to get healthier. But what if you’re very out of shape? Start walking for shorter amounts of time and gradually push yourself to increase that time every few days. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll be able to increase your time walking. Just be sure you have a good pair of walking shoes! Believe it or not, a good pair of shoes make walking easier, and it’s much better for your feet!
If you’ve been pretty sedentary and are very out of shape, then be gentle with yourself when you start a regular walking routine. It can be easy to beat yourself up when you realize how out of shape you’ve gotten. But you are taking steps to change that, so be sure you focus on the positive and not the negative!
Walking my first 5k
Several years ago I decided to walk a 5k for the first time. I hadn’t done much training since I was walking it and not running. And I didn’t walk regularly then. It was EXHAUSTING! I had to go home and take a nap. And I was very sore for two days after the race. I truly didn’t think that I’d be able to make it through the race. But I did! Now, walking a 5k is easy for me.
I go hiking at my local state park as often as I can. The trail I usually walk is about the same length as a 5k race. I can now walk that trail several days a week without becoming exhausted. I love walking now! And I feel so good when I walk regularly! I even walked 10,000 a day for an entire year!
Walking is a great way to help improve your health! It’s okay to work your way up to walking for longer periods if that’s what is best for you! Your strength and stamina will increase quickly and before you know it you’ll be walking more. A good step goal is 8,000-10,000 steps a day. If you want to track your steps, a fitness tracker like an Apple watch or Fitbit can help. I love my Fitbit! It has inspired me to be more active!
The CDC recommends that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. Walking is the perfect way to get that!
Here’s to taking the next step to being the healthiest you can be!