Eight benefits of walking

To help keep your body healthy, the NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week; walking can count towards this. 

This is different from taking a leisurely stroll. Moderate-intensity walking involves raising your heart rate and breathing rate such that you can still hold a conversation but can’t sing. 

This has many health benefits. Here are eight of them.

1. Improve your cardiovascular health

The second leading cause of death of adults in the UK is coronary heart disease, also known as ischaemic heart disease or coronary artery disease. Regularly going for a walk can significantly reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, as well as reducing your risk of high blood pressure

If you already have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, regular walking can help reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both of which are risk factors for heart disease, heart attacks and stroke

2. Control your blood sugar levels

Over five million people in the UK are living with diabetes, which is characterised by high blood sugar levels. Diabetes can damage many of your organs over time, including your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. 

Regular walking can help lower your blood sugar levels and increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that helps sugar in your blood enter your cells. Together, this helps reduce your risk of diabetes and if you already have diabetes, can help keep your blood sugar levels under better control. 

3. Maintain a healthy weight

Depending on your weight and speed of walking, you can burn around three to five calories per minute from walking. This means you can burn up to 750 calories if you spend 150 minutes walking every week. 

Combined with a healthy diet, regular walking can, therefore, help you lose excess weight. 

4. Improve your muscle strength and balance

Regular walking strengthens and tones the muscles in your lower body — the same muscles that help you maintain your balance

As your muscles become stronger, you’ll notice that you can walk further and faster without tiring, triggering a virtuous cycle. Walking on an incline, as opposed to on a flat surface, will help strengthen your muscles further. 

5. Strengthen your bones and joints

Weight-bearing exercises help improve your bone density. Regular walking specifically strengthens the bones in your lower body as they have to bear the weight of the rest of your body. 

Regular walking also strengthens the muscles around your joints, which helps keep your joints stable. Stronger muscles also lead to stronger joints due to the forces the muscles apply to your joints as they pull on them. 

6. Improve your mood

Exercise, including walking, stimulates the release of endorphins in your brain and nervous system. Endorphins reduce your perception of pain and increase feelings of wellbeing. Together, this can improve your mood and reduce your stress levels. Regular walking can also reduce anxiety and depression

7. Increase your energy levels

Walking, as with other forms of exercise, increases your heart rate, which allows more oxygen-rich blood to be pumped around your body. It also increases the release of hormones including cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Together, this increases your energy levels, which is why though you may feel tired before a walk, you may feel more energised after one. 

8. Boost your immune system

Moderate-intensity exercise, including walking, boosts your immune system by improving the flow of immune cells throughout your body and reducing inflammation. Regular walking can, therefore, help reduce how often you catch colds and the flu, and the duration of your symptoms. 

How to walk safely

To avoid injury when walking, make sure you wear comfortable shoes with a good amount of cushioning that supports your ankles and feet. You should also wear clothing that allows you to move freely and easily, without overheating — try wearing several light layers, so you can add and remove them as needed.

It is also important to warm up before you go for a walk by walking or marching on the spot. Once your muscles have warmed up, stretch them out and then do so again after your walk is finished. This will help prevent your muscles from feeling achy the next day and will also reduce your risk of injuries.

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.

The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences. Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Catriona Shaw, Lead Editor

Catriona has an English degree from the University of Southampton and more than 12 years’ experience copy editing across a range of complex topics. She works with a diverse team of writers to create clear and compelling copy to educate and inform.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing. He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.