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.
Walking is one of the most underrated forms of physical activity. It has numerous health benefits for both our mind and body, requires no equipment other than a sturdy pair of shoes, and best of all it's free!
It also allows us to get those recommended steps in without taking part in any gruelling workouts or high-intensity classes that might not be for you. Whether it’s walking the dog, with friends around the local area or with a family member somewhere further afield, walking helps contribute to a healthier you, your way.
In this article, we've rounded up some of our most frequently asked questions about walking and why it's so good for us, answered by our expert team.
How much exercise should I be getting a week?
As a guide, the NHS suggests that we do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week. For example, this could be brisk walking (walking at a pace that gets your heart beating faster, but you can still hold a conversation) for 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Or you can even break it up into shorter bursts of 10 minutes, if that works better for you.
What physical benefits might I see from regular walking?
Walking regularly is shown to have numerous benefits to our overall physical health. It can help to reduce our risk of several conditions such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. Additionally, if we are in a calorie deficit regular walking can help with weight loss.
Walking is also a great way to help develop and maintain our muscle mass and strength in our lower body. This is particularly important as we age as it can help to reduce the risk of falls.
What are the mental health benefits of regular walking?
There’s good evidence that walking can improve symptoms of depression and low mood. In fact, researchers have found that walking more than two times a week, for over 30 mins each time over ten weeks has real benefits for mental health.1
Exercise in general reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.2
Dr Mark Winwood, Clinical Lead for Mental Health Services at AXA Health, says that physical activity can help develop resilience, improve low moods and boost self-esteem. And walking is a great way to start.
“When you’re active, your brain releases dopamine and serotonin – the ‘feel-good’ chemicals, which are known to improve your mood. It also reduces harmful changes in the brain caused by stress and can help us to see possibilities, instead of feeling defeated. In other words, it can help us get some perspective on life’s problems!”
Is brisk walking better than jogging?
Jogging results in heavier breathing, and harder work for your muscles, so is considered a more vigorous exercise, compared to brisk walking. Whether you choose to walk or jog mostly comes down to your personal preference and level of ability; it’s about finding what works best for you.
Starting daily jogs if you’re fairly inactive will place a lot of strain through your muscles, which may cause tightness in the lower body and potentially stiffness in joints. Like any exercise, it’s always best to build up gradually, making sure your body is adapting well to the increases in activity.
Some people simply don’t enjoy jogging and would rather go for a brisk walk. So it’s important to choose what works for you and what you’re more likely to stick to in the long-term.