Wellbeing

Luke Weston, Junior Physiologist at AXA Health

How to boost the health benefits of walking

Feel even better when getting out on your walk

21 October 2020

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Find your Feelgood Health

At AXA Health, we know that everyone’s journey to Feelgood Health is different. Discover more ways to boost your body and mind in a way that suits you on our hub.

Find your feelgood health

When trying to find your feelgood activity, you may overlook the humble walk, but don’t underestimate the benefits that getting out in the fresh air can have for your health and overall wellbeing. Getting active doesn’t need to be complicated and there are little things you can do when you’re out and about to get even more benefits from walking. To find out more on why it's great for our physical and mental wellbeing, take a look at our article on the health benefits of walking.

Walking is a great way to improve your energy and lift your overall mood and it's also shown to be good for improving flexibility, joint mobility and coordination. Regular walking can also reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and asthma1.

What’s more, one of the best things about walking is that you don’t need any special fitness equipment - just a pair of supportive, comfortable shoes and you’re good to go.

For good health, the NHS recommends that we accumulate 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular activity across the week. We know this may sound a lot, but the good news is walking absolutely counts towards this! What’s even better is that you don’t need to do it all in one go. It can be broken down into smaller chunks across the week. Whether it’s getting out for 30 minutes at lunch time or taking a phone call while going for a stroll, it all adds up.  

So, if walking is part of your journey to feel good, we’ve got a few tips and tricks to help boost its benefits even more.

1. Speed it up

Walk at ‘race pace’ to get your heart rate going. To do this, start walking and increase your pace every 30 seconds until you’re just about to break into a jog – this is your maximum walking pace.

2. Take a longer stride

Simply walk by taking a longer stride, just as if you are stepping over a big puddle. Aim to do this for 20 steps at intervals throughout your walk. Lengthening your stride will help increase the range of movement through your hips and challenge your balance and coordination.

3. Ground yourself

One technique known as the ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ technique is good for reflecting on what’s around you and living in the now. It's something that can be used by anyone, anywhere, regardless of your experience and can be particularly helpful if you want to unwind while out a walk.

Each time you reach a point on your walk, maybe when you see a beautiful view, stop and look for 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. It doesn’t have to be in the that order either. Just using your senses and focusing on what is around you can be really helpful.

4. Embrace your core

Junior Physiologist at AXA Health, Luke Weston, suggests that, while walking or standing, imagine you are bracing your core muscles against a belt and hold for 10 seconds. You should feel this supporting your spine all the way around. Use a prompt to remind yourself to keep doing this – say every time you see a certain type of tree, an animal, or if you’re listening to music while you walk, at the end of each track.

5. Mix it up

Set yourself a challenge to go and explore new places. The change in scenery can enrich your mental health. Stay within a certain radius of your home but find a route or area that you’ve never been to before and go on an adventure. Take note of the new surroundings you see along the way. This will help to add some variety to your walk, and you'll discover more of what's in your local area and community. This can be a fun activity for you to do with others in your household or if possible to do so safely, with friends at a distance.

Finding your own feelgood health may take a bit of trial and error as we all find joy in different things, but we’re with you every step of the way. Once you find what works for you, it’s easier to keep on track with your health and wellbeing journey, because if you enjoy what you’re doing, it won’t feel like work at all.

Further reading

Health benefits of walking | AXA Health

Benefits of gardening | AXA Health

Mindful breathing tips | AXA Health

Benefits and tips for exercising outdoors | AXA Health

Benefits of hiking | AXA Health

References

[1] Chodzko-Zajko, W. J. et al. American college of sports medicine position stand. Exercise and physical activity for older adults. 2009.

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