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Walking is a great way to get the 30-60 minutes a day of moderate physical activity recommended for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It’s also a cinch to fit into everyday life: with no fitness club membership or commitment, no booking workout slots or buying lots of kit – all you’ll need is a pair of suitable walking shoes.
It’s a fantastic way to carve out some relaxing time from a busy day to think your own thoughts. Plus it’s a perfect thing to share with friends or your other half.
4 benefits of walking
Getting out for a walk can have benefits for your body and your mind:
- A regular brisk walk improves the health of heart and lungs, reduces blood pressure and can lower your risk of heart disease after menopause by between 12% and 40%.
- It can also help strengthen bones, keep joints supple, ease back pain, and maintain muscle.
- Women who walk consistently for the equivalent of seven hours a week are 14% less likely to develop breast cancer.
- Walking can also help ward off post-menopausal depression, anxiety and stress and help you sleep better.
Your best foot forward
Do you need that little push out of the door? Check these easy tips:
- For optimum benefit walk briskly enough to feel your heart rate increase and get sweaty and a bit breathless – although you should still be able to hold a conversation.
- If you’re an exercise newbie or haven’t exercised for a while start by walking on flat terrain and after a week or so add in some hills to make it more aerobic.
- Using an activity tracker can help to increase motivation as you work up to 10,000 steps (around five miles) a day. Most phones have a pre-loaded app that you can use, or you could invest in a smart watch or pedometer.
- You can ramp up the benefits by trying power walking or speed walking. It’s closer to the upper end of the natural speed range for walking – usually 4.5 to 5.5 mph, similar to jogging. Use a pedometer or activity tracker to check.
- To exercise your upper as well as your lower body, try Nordic walking, where you use hand-held poles to propel you forward.
- Always warm up and cool down by walking gently for five minutes before and after your exercise.
How much, how often?
If you know exactly what will offer the best benefit, it’ll give you something to aim for.
- For overall fitness aim for a minimum 30 minutes most days.
- For weight loss shoot for 40 minutes, six days a week.
- If you’ve lost weight and want to keep it off aim for 90 minutes most days.
- Too much like hard work? Break into more manageable 20-minute chunks throughout your day.
What do I need?
A good pair of walking shoes will set you on the right track. Look for a lightweight, breathable shoe with a low, supportive heel and roomy toe box – leave around half an inch between your toes and the end of the shoe.
For information about shoes, clothing and more advice, visit the walking site.
Go the extra mile
For getting fit: sign up for a local health walk with Walking for Health
For getting to know the countryside: try a Ramblers walk.
For whittling your waist: Try Joanna Hall’s WalkActive programme
For boosting motivation: try a walk for charity – search online to find one near you.
What are your favourite walks? Let us know in the comments below!