Walking is a sometimes overlooked method of exercise, however, walking briskly is one of the easiest ways to get active and improve your health. Introducing walking into your routine or just remembering it’s an option when you’re looking for something to do is a fantastic way to work on your fitness, and have fun at the same time. Drag friends along with you, explore new places, listen to a podcast, meditation or audiobook or just take some time to enjoy being by yourself.
If we covered every reason why you should be walking this blog post would never end, but we’ve picked some important and actionable ones for you to read below.
Active rest days
Going for a walk on your day off from the gym is a great way to still get in some gentle movement and feel great the next day.
You need recovery time, and scheduling active rest days can help you stay on track and help you train more effectively the following day. This works because low-intensity exercise such as a light walk keeps your momentum going and promotes recovery for your muscles, helping to prevent stiffness. It can also help scratch that itch if you’re feeling really motivated and don’t want to take a day off, even when you know you should.
To really promote recovery, follow up your walk with a 10-minute foam rolling session, focussing on any tight body parts.
While there’s a very low barrier to entry with walking, you don’t really need anything except a few spare minutes and some comfortable shoes, the activity is scaleable. This is especially great for those that need a lower-intensity exercise to start with, but want to build on their fitness as it improves. Increase the distance you walk gradually, and you may be surprised with how quickly your stamina and strength improve.
Pack a mini backpack with water and some snacks and you can walk for half a day or more, across fields and hills. Trying out more challenging routes can turn a walk into a full workout.
Heart health & cardiovascular fitness
Working out to promote a healthy heart is a common goal and one that often gets people back into exercise in the first place. The great news is it’s really quite easy to help out your heart.
Moderately intense walking helps increase your cardiovascular fitness, also called aerobic fitness. This is your body’s ability to transport and take in oxygen while exercising and it is inseparably linked with overall health. In short, higher cardiovascular fitness is linked with healthier blood pressure, as well as lower chances of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, heart attack and many other common health markers. There are even links with greater resistance to illness and fatigue.
And yes, you can get all these benefits from just walking. While you should do a variety of training, including strength training to further support your muscles and bones, using walking as part of your schedule is an easy and reliable way to improve your heart health. Just ensure you’re pushing yourself hard enough to actually gain the benefits of walking.
Mental health benefits of walking
We can’t talk about the benefits of any exercise without mentioning your mental wellbeing. Any movement releases endorphins (feel-good hormones) and improves your mood and walking is one of the most accessible ways to do this.
Taking a break to move helps reduce stress and anxiety, and exercise can help you sleep better. Physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of depression and improve your confidence. This is before adding in things like a friend, who you can talk to, laugh with and share problems along the way. Selecting uplifting music, podcasts and audiobooks can also help improve your mood and will give you something to focus on while you’re walking.
How do I know if I’m walking fast enough?
You want to make sure you are walking fast enough. Too slow and your heart rate won’t rise and your muscles won’t really need to try.
So, how fast is fast enough? Walking for exercise is classed as ‘brisk walking’ which is about 3 miles an hour. You can also tell you’re working hard enough if you can still talk and hold a conversation with someone, but you can’t sing.
The other option is to use a heart rate tracker, or an app to track your speed. Your heart should be elevated above rest. Aim for 50-60% of your maximum heart rate when you’re starting off, and 60-70% if you want to hit the fat-burning zone.
So, what are you waiting for? In the current heat, few things will be as relieving as air-con. The great news is all our clubs have air-con year-round to keep you cool and fresh. So, grab your headphones, and some water and enjoy a walk on one of our treadmills while escaping the heat.