Since the early 70s, doctors have prescribed aerobic exercise to improve cardiovascular health because of its practicality and effectiveness for people of different age groups and lifestyles. Like running, walking is also a type of aerobic exercise; however, it is often dismissed as less effective in comparison to the former because of its moderate to low intensity. Although, research suggests that regular moderate to low intensity exercise, like walking, can be extremely beneficial to overall health, especially as one starts to age.
Is walking more effective than running?
The effectiveness of an exercise depends on its intensity, duration, and frequency of exercise. Given that walking is of a lower intensity than running, in order to make it an effective form of exercise, one can walk for a longer period of time and on a regular basis. To put it simply, walking everyday for 45 minutes can be more advantageous than running once a week for 20 minutes. While running might lead to weight loss and improved stamina in the short run, walking is a long term investment in your health and wellbeing. That being said, it is important to consider one’s age and physical health when choosing the duration and frequency to walk for.
What are the benefits of walking?
Walking is possibly the easiest form of exercise that we do, even without realising. You do not require any fancy equipment or planning to walk. Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple walk on a regular basis, can help you:
- Maintain a healthy weight – Like all forms of aerobic exercise, walking can help you burn calories and lose weight. However, weight loss can only occur if you walk consistently for a period of time. Furthermore, walking at a higher intensity can speed up the process of weight loss.
- Strengthen the heart – Regular walks can boost the heart rate and lower blood pressure. Therefore, walking at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease by around 19 percent as per recent research.
- Ease joint pain and strengthen muscles – Walking is a great exercise for those who cannot manage higher intensity exercises due to joint pain. It can help protect the joints, including your knees and hips, by lubricating and strengthening the muscles that support the joints.
- Improve your mood – Several studies have shown that walking improves mental health as walking releases endorphins to the body. This is a hormone that reduces pain and boosts pleasure, resulting in an overall feeling of well-being.
- Live longer – Research has found that people who walk regularly in their fifties and sixties are 35% less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts.
Undoubtedly, walking can bring you so many benefits from physical to mental well-being. However, it is important to remember that these benefits rely on the intensity, duration, frequency of your walks. So, the faster and longer your walks are (on a regular basis), the more evident these benefits will be. Nevertheless, these benefits will vary from person to person as age and lifestyle also plays a part.
Walk towards a healthy heart:
It can be very easy to include walking in your daily life. It is advisable to slowly build up the distances and durations that you may walk for. For example, try walking for 20 minutes and the next day, you can try walking for 30 minutes. Incremental increases in the frequency and duration of your walks, will benefit you over time without making walks too physically demanding. Here are simple ways you can start:
- Take the stairs instead of the lift.
- Walk (don’t drive) to the local shops.
- Walk the dog (or your neighbour’s dog).
- Make evening/morning walks a daily ritual
So what are you waiting for? All you need to start walking is a comfortable pair of shoes and the motivation to walk. To make walks more interesting, you can invite a family member or friend to go along with you or you could even explore different routes for your walks. Lastly, it is important that you track your progress by setting realistic goals. Before you know it, you will have become a pro-walker!