Many of us take walking for granted. We walk in the grocery store, walk to and from our car to get places, and walk to pick up our kids from school. Yet this underrated activity can be a powerful form of exercise if you put intention behind it. April 6th is National Walking Day! Here’s a few key benefits of walking and tips on how to celebrate, step by step.
Benefits of Walking
1. Walking has multiple physical benefits. The best part about walking is that it does not need to be vigorous or done for long periods of time. It only requires 15-30 minutes everyday to:
- Increase cardiovascular fitness
- Reduce excess body fat and cholesterol
- Boost endurance
- Improve blood pressure
- Improve depression
2. Walking also has multiple mental health benefits. It reduces anxiety and depression, and a study by the National Library of Medicine found that “just 12 minutes of walking resulted in an increase in joviality, vigor, attentiveness and self-confidence versus the same time spent sitting” as reported by NBC News. In addition, walking is a perfect mindfulness activity. Walking provides a mental clarity and lens on life the more you engage with it.
3. Walking can also inspire creative moments and boost memory. Nature walks, specifically, have its own benefits, too. Nature provides an escape from the business in daily life. In Japan, walking and spending time in forests is known as forest bathing or shinrin-yoko; it’s used as a practice for preventative healthcare. Walking in nature helps us to live in the moment and to pay attention to the moment.
Tips for Walking
The first step in walking is figuring out your ability level. While your goal may be to walk for thirty minutes a day, you must be realistic with your expectations. Do not adopt an ‘all or nothing’ mentality. Start with 5-10 minutes a day, and add 2 minutes longer each week. Starting small is better than not starting at all. Use a timer to help you reach your goals and track your activity in a daily activity log.
Almost 50% of the U.S. population has a sedentary job, and most of us engage in some form of remote work. Take advantage of working from home by bringing a buddy on your walk. Whether you choose your furry friend, your spouse, or a friend, having company with you on your walk will motivate you to practice walking more.
Finally, choosing your route strategically can impact the enjoyability of your walk. Is there a nearby trail, park, or canal that you’ve always wanted to try? Now’s the time to take a chance. Research nearby paths in the area, whether it’s simply taking a stroll in your neighborhood or getting outside near grass and trees. Remember, take it step by step!