Walking is one of the most underrated forms of physical activity, yet it has numerous health benefits for both mind and body, requires no equipment other than a sturdy pair of shoes, and it's free!
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.
What physical benefits might I see from regular walking?
Walking, especially brisk walking (walking at a pace that gets your heart beating faster, but you can still hold a conversation) is a great health all-rounder. It burns calories, which can help with weight loss, and it works your heart and makes it stronger over time. Having a stronger heart can help lower the risk of heart disease, as well as other conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
Brisk walking also helps build strength in many muscles, including your legs and bottom. You might even find your core muscles become stronger, which is great for posture and preventing back pain.
As a guide, the NHS suggests that we do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week (brisk walking, for example). This could look like 30 minutes, 5 days a week, or you can even break it up into shorter bursts of 10 minutes.
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.*
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 preference and level of ability. 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. It’s important to enjoy the exercise you do, so you should never force an exercise just because it’s potentially better for you.