Walking is an easy way to spend time outdoors and add physical activity to your daily routine. Unlike many other forms of exercise, you don’t need pricey equipment or a gym membership to get started, making it arguably the most accessible form of exercise.
Walking is a low-impact form of exercise, appropriate for older adults or anyone with chronic injuries. We can all benefit from getting our blood pumping a bit and breathing in some fresh air, regardless of our age or abilities.
Regular walks are a great part of our physical preventative healthcare, but they are also excellent for our mental health. Whether you’re walking to run an errand, going for a stroll with a friend, or listening to your favorite music while exploring your neighborhood, walking is a powerful activity.
Here are eight of the biggest benefits of walking outside for long-term health.
1) Better Heart Health
Walking has been shown to improve cardiovascular health in the long run. This reduces the risk of conditions like heart disease and stroke, which become increasingly common later in life.
Taking even a short walk each day can go a long way toward keeping your heart healthy. According to a 2019 CDC study, adults who walk regularly were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease or display early risk factors for these diseases.
When you walk, your muscles need extra oxygen to keep working. This means that your heart and lungs have to work a little harder, which ultimately strengthens them and gives you a better chance of fighting off cardiovascular disease.
2) Strengthens Bones and Muscles
If you don’t engage your muscles on a regular basis, they’ll lose flexibility and strength over time. In particular, walking can help you build lean muscles. Gentle stretching after your walk can help you improve your mobility even more.
Walking and other forms of low-impact exercise are also effective for maintaining strong bones. Studies have shown that women who walk over a mile each day had higher bone density than those who did not. Everyone is at risk for bone loss as they age, but women are particularly prone to osteoporosis and need to continuously protect their bone density.
3) Boosts Endurance
One of the biggest benefits of walking outside is that it provides an endurance boost. Many people think you need to go for a run, swim, or other forms of intense cardiovascular exercise to improve your endurance. However, going for gentle walks can have a similar effect and feels far less daunting.
If you add walks to your daily routine, your stamina will slowly improve over time. If you’re not used to exercising, you might find that you run out of breath very quickly or that your muscles get sore. If this is how you feel, start with short walks and slowly work your way up to a longer route.
4) Improves Energy Levels
If you frequently feel sleepy, fatigued, or generally “out of it,” going for a walk can give you a helpful jolt of energy. Walking has been shown to improve energy levels throughout the day, especially in individuals over the age of 30. The act of walking releases endorphins in the brain, which helps maintain strong energy levels throughout the day.
If you find yourself falling asleep at your desk or are regularly too tired to enjoy your hobbies, try taking a short walk in the morning to boost your energy. Chronic fatigue can also be a sign of a more serious health condition, so be sure to talk to your doctor if the problem doesn’t improve with regular exercise.
5) Decreases Stress Levels
The average American is more stressed than ever right now. An American Psychological Association study in 2022 reported that a third of adults found their stress levels to be completely overwhelming.
With all of the economic and political ups and downs of the past few years, this is no surprise. Add in busy work, family, and social life on top of today’s current events, and it’s easy for even the happiest person to become overwhelmed.
Going for a walk is a great way to blow off some steam, especially on a tough day. Since walking releases endorphins, it can help you calm down when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
6) Combats Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression can be incredibly disruptive to your daily routine, making it difficult to get work done, socialize with friends and family, or even enjoy your favorite hobbies. Although going for a walk won’t cure your mental health issues, it can help significantly improve your mood.
The endorphins released when you walk aren’t just great for stress relief – they can also provide a “happiness” boost. Additionally, being outside in the sunlight can increase your serotonin levels, which might help you feel more at peace if you struggle with anxiety or seasonal blues.
7) Increases Immunity
If you’re prone to catching the flu or other seasonal illnesses, going for a walk can help improve your immunity. Studies have found that those who walk for 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week have 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised less often.
Gentle exercise can make your body more resilient and better able to fight off any communicable diseases circulating in your community. Regular walks are also a great way to make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D from the sun, which is important for preventing illness.
8) Preserves Cognition and Memory
Many people struggle with memory and general cognition as they age, especially after age 60. Adding regular walks to your daily routine now can help you keep your brain healthy for decades to come, especially when paired with other healthy habits.
Cognitive decline is almost twice as common in adults who don’t exercise when compared with those who do. This is because gentle exercises like walking stimulate blood flow and the release of important chemicals in the brain.
Looking for Other Ways to Care for Your Body and Mind?
There are so many current and preventative benefits of walking outside, for both your physical and mental health. Of course, regular walks are just one part of a healthy lifestyle. You’ll also want to make sure you’re pairing gentle exercise with a healthy diet and other healthy habits.
At HealthCues, we provide workplace solutions to preserve and protect employee health for many years to come. Are you ready to take advantage of our preventative healthcare platform? Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.