The COVID-19 pandemic has people walking more than ever. Are you among those who can’t wait to get out for a walk in the neighborhood for some fresh air? Maybe the “shelter in place” order we’ve endured in recent months has you going stir crazy, so a walk is your way to just get out of the house. Well, guess what? You are doing more good for yourself than meets the eye. Read on to learn about some surprising benefits to your daily walk and let them inspire you to keep up the good work after the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
1. MOOD BOOSTER
Sometimes all you need is a little fresh air to change your attitude. We don’t need science to tell us that taking a daily walk can lift your mood even when we are feeling down. Just being outside has some magical mood improving powers. I can testify that being out for a walk helps decrease depression and can put emotions in an overall happier place.
2. GOOD BONES
As you age, bone density can decrease and make an injury from a fall much more severe. Believe it or not, walking can improve bone density and stop the loss of bone mass that is often associated with osteoporosis. Walking for up to 40 minutes a day may also help to reduce hip fractures and other injuries related to falls. This is common sense, really. The science of, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” applies here. We must keep moving as we age to stay strong and limber. Walking is an excellent low impact way to do that.
3. HEART HEALTH
Whether it’s hypertension or cardiovascular health, walking has been shown to have positive effects on the overall health of your heart. A consistent walking routine can help lower your blood pressure and prevent heart disease – two very common ailments for the 40 somethings on up. And while you’ll still want to consult a doctor before beginning an exercise routine, for anyone with existing heart conditions, walking can be a safer alternative to more vigorous forms of exercise.
4. BURN FAT
Losing weight and keeping it off is a little more complex than simply burning calories. In addition to healthy eating, finding ways to boost your metabolism can help reduce body fat. Walking has been shown to keep your internal furnace running hot so you can burn more calories during the day when you’re not exercising. The key is upping the pace. Try including 1–2 minutes of power walking every five minutes during your daily walk to get started, or walk on hilly or uneven terrain.
5. BABY STEPS
Since walking is considered safe on the joints and a low-impact activity, beginning a walking program before you start running or other forms of high-intensity exercise can help. After you become more comfortable with a fitness walking routine, try a walk-run program to ease yourself into running for longer distances.
6. RECOVERY AID
Even if you are accustomed to higher intensity workouts and are relatively fit, your body still needs time to rest and recover between workouts. Because walking is a low-to-moderate intensity exercise that gets the blood flowing and raises the heart rate, it can be an ideal recovery activity in between harder workouts. It can also help ease any joint, back and muscular pain associated with more extreme forms of exercise.
7. MENTAL HEALTH
Many of us have experienced new anxieties and stresses during this crazy time of COVID-19. Getting outside and exercising is an excellent way to clear your mind. Whether you take a short walk around the neighborhood or head to a park or forest, try to be more aware of your body, your surroundings and all that you have to be grateful for. Walking with a loved one helps us feel connected as you talk together, and talking things out loud is a great way to manage stress, discuss new ideas, make plans, etc. Walking alone offers opportunity to refocus your mind, pray, even vent. OK, maybe that’s just me. Anyway, taking this focused time alone or with a loved one while walking can have other positive effects on your health and well-being that go far beyond letting go of the worries of the day.