You don’t have to pound the pavement at an aggressive pace to enjoy all the heart-strengthening, energizing, and mood-lifting benefits aerobic exercises. Although we, of course, advocate regular running, walking at a moderate pace can provide many of the same health and fitness benefits.
“Walking is one of the easiest and most effective ways to stay healthy—even if it’s not strenuous, it is cardiovascular benefits and reduces the risk of hypertension, diabetesand more,” says Meg Takacs, NASM-CPT, running coach and founder Movement and kilometers application. “However, regular walking is key to getting the most out of it. The more consistent you are, the more positive results your body has.”
In other words, a leisurely walk here and there is better than nothing, but if you treat your walking routine as a non-negotiable part of your daily routine, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck. Continue reading for more about the benefits of walking regularly, plus eight tips to start a walking routine you’ll want to stick to every day.
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Benefits of a regular walking routine
It protects your heart
In order to reduce your numbers, walking must become a real habit. In fact, one session of aerobic exercise had no effect on cholesterol, but 160 minutes of exercise over 18 weeks led to a significant increase in HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, also known as “good” cholesterol, according to study from Turkey in 2020.
You might sleep better
It may seem counterintuitive, but yes, the more you walk the more rested you can feel it. Regular walking over four weeks was positively associated with better sleep in a 2019 study published in the newspaper Sleep health.
It’s not about helping you get more zzz’s, it’s about making your sleep better – which means you’ll wake up refreshed.
It strengthens your immunity
Start a walking routine and you can literally avoid getting a cold or flu. People who walk at a brisk pace (read: 2.5 to 4 mph) for 30 to 45 minutes five times a week have been shown to have fewer respiratory symptoms than others in several studies.
You can improve your mood
“Regular walking reduces your stressalong with increased blood circulation to the brain and body, you’ll also notice an improvement in mood,” says Emma Graves, certified personal trainer and Ultra Fit instructor at Life Time River North in Chicago. A regular walking routine, whether outside or inside, has been shown to significantly improve symptoms of depression, a review of research shows published in the newspaper Mental health and physical activity.
8 tips on how to start a walking routine
1. Equip yourself
Invest in new workout clothes, especially comfortable and supportive ones walking shoes, suggests Graves. “Having them will improve your walking form, prevent injuriesreduce the impact on your joints and improve your foot health,” she says. Besides, the more you like yours shoesthe more often you will want to tie them.
2. Set a goal for your walk
Think about what you want to achieve. The goal can be physical (to master a certain number hills or knock out a mile in a certain number of minutes, for example), or mentally. “Your plan for the walk might be something like, ‘I’m going to think about an issue or problem that’s going on in my life, and by the end of the walk I’ll have a plan for it,'” says Takacs. Either way, having a specific plan in mind can help you stick to it and move on.
3. Try for 10
“The most important thing to remember about walking or any type of fitness is that a little is better than nothing,” says Graves. Even if you only have 10 minutes morning, walking on the sidewalk (or path, or wherever you want to walk) for those 10 minutes can help make walking more like a ritual. “When you keep showing up, even if you’re not feeling well or can’t handle a long walk, you’re building a habit,” she adds.
4. Add up
The magic number that many doctors cite for how much exercise you should do per week is the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 150 minutes per week. That’s 150 minutes (or two and a half hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (think RPE of 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 10), and walking on a pace which is why the heartbeat is counted.
“This can be broken down into five 30-minute walks a week or three 50-minute walks a week—or if you’re just starting out, start with more frequent, shorter walks and work your way up as you improve your cardiovascular system. fitness,” suggests Graves.
To make sure you hit that 150 goal—and help you make your walks a regular part of your day—record the length of each walk in a notebook or on a note on your phone, then add up your number at the end of the week. If you don’t reach that number, make it your goal next week to add a little more.
5. Write with a pencil
To really make walking a routine you stick to several days a week, learn to think of it as a non-negotiable. “Plan to set aside time as if it were a work assignment or a meeting—put it on your calendar,” says Takacs. “Our dedication to health should be just as important as our dedication to work and the rest of our lives. While you track yours exercisesyou’ll find yourself wanting to do it more.”
6. Get a friend involved
Walking with a friend can hold you accountable. “Someone with similar goals and a similar schedule to you can do wonders motivating to walk on days when you don’t feel like it,” says Graves. “It’s harder to skip a walk when someone is waiting outside the door to walk with you.”
7. Try Habit Stacking
This strategy, Graves says, is where you combine one activity you’d like to make into a habit with another activity that’s already a habit. For example, if you listen to a podcast every morning start going for your daily walk while listening to it. If you tend to talk to your mom on the phone a few nights a week, try talking to her through yours earphones while walking around the neighborhood.
8. Let your mind wander
It reaps the mood enhancing benefits Your walking habits, you can try to listen to the guide meditation or soothing music, or leave your headphones at home and let your mind relax. “Focus on your surroundings, switch off, and move at a pace where your body feels comfortable and productive,” suggests Takacs. “You can use walking as a moving meditation, and the more in tune you are with your body and mind, the more you get out of walking — mentally and physically.”
Laurel Leicht is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She has covered health, fitness and travel for outlets including Well+Good, Glamor and O, The Oprah Magazine.