Can you walk your way to fitness?
April 5, 2022

Can you walk your way to fitness?

Rachel Wadsley, PhD

The fitness industry makes exercise seem more complicated than it is. Everywhere you look there is a new fitness fad or you’re pushed into thinking you need to do hour-long workouts in the gym. 

None of the benefits of longer workouts (and strength training) matter if you don’t have the time or desire to do them. What matters is the workouts you want to do, can do, and will do. 

Walking might not seem as effective as running or a traditional gym workout, but it’s one of the most underrated workouts for improving health. It’s a great cardiovascular exercise that doesn’t require any special equipment or long workout sessions. 

Plus, walking can be easier to fit into your day. As an added bonus you can break up your walking into smaller chunks of time. But more on that later. First, let’s explore the physical and mental health benefits of walking. 

Physical Benefits of Walking

Researchers are exposing the benefits of walking, and doctors are telling their patients to lace up their sneakers. Walking can be as easygoing as you’d like or an intense aerobic workout. Below are the benefits of walking at a mild to moderate pace for 30 minutes a day. 

Ideal healthy weight

Walking can help you achieve and maintain your ideal body weight. It’s okay to break up your 30 minutes into smaller chunks. You could even walk in place during commercials. 

Happy heart 

When you vary your speed or walk on uneven terrain you’ll challenge your body and heart (in a good way). This can reduce your risk of stroke by 20-40% and your risk of heart disease by 19%

Stable blood sugar

According to research in Diabetes Care, walking for 15 minutes after each meal can improve blood sugar levels. While this is only one study, other research has shown walking, in general, is great for managing and preventing type 2 diabetes. 

Strong bones & soothed joints

Regular walking can reduce your risk for bone fractures by 40% and reduce the risk for osteoporosis in women. Walking helps brings oxygen, nutrients, and lubrication to your joints which helps reduce stiffness and pain. This is great news if you have arthritis!

Energy boost

Get those feet moving for an energy boost just as good as caffeine and minus all the pesky side effects like needing a nap once your coffee wears off. 

Boosted immune system

Walking can reduce the sick days you take from work by 43% and shorten how long you’re not feeling well. Enjoy those saved sick days for something fun (we won’t tell your boss). 

Mental Benefits of Exercise

Walking isn’t just for your body. Getting any form of movement also helps with mental health. When you exercise your brain releases feel-good endorphins into your body and more oxygen flows to your brain. And who doesn’t want to feel like they're dancing on cloud 9?

Better Sleep

Exercise is one of the best ways to improve sleep. It doesn't matter what time of the day you walk. But if you’re walking before bed, keep your pace at a mild to moderate level.   

Less stress and depression

Regular walking is a great free tool to reduce and prevent stress. Those feel-good endorphins help melt away stress and reduce the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your body. The result is an overall better mood. The more you walk the better you’ll feel.  

Bring on the creativity 

Gives your brain a mental break from the day (and the screen) by walking before, during, or after your workday. The time spent walking lets your mind drift and get into the creative zone. Next time you are stuck or mentally dragging it's time to get up and step away. 

Getting Off on the Right Foot

When you’re ready to start walking, it’s important to honor your body. If you sit most of the day and walking is exhausting, that’s okay!!! Start slower. Even walking to your mailbox or the corner is a great start. 

Make walking fun:

  • Change up where you walk
  • Walk with a friend or talk to someone on the phone
  • Zone out with a good podcast or audiobook
  • Listen to slow and fast songs and walk to the beat of the music
  • If one week gets too hard go back to the previous week’s routine 

4-Week Beginner Walking Plan

The following plan is a suggestion. Modify the times based on your life and needs. Check this roundtable article from our trainwell (formerly CoPilot) trainers for more tips on squeezing in steps.

Start with 15 minutes a day. Aim for 3-5 days this first week. Spread out the 15 minutes over your day or do them all at once. Each week increase your walking time by 5 minutes a day. If you hit a week that feels too hard, go back to the previous week. Continue to build your strength and endurance until adding more time feels doable. 

Do you want a personalized walking or fitness plan? Trainwell certified trainers will support you with custom workout plans, nutrition advice, and more. Click here to get a free trainwell trial and enjoy a live 40-minute call and full access to the app.

Written by Rachel Wadsley, PhD

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