So yeah, walking’s not exactly the latest trend in fitness. It’s not fancy like Lagree, hardcore like CrossFit, or sexy like surfing.
In fact, it’s been around for as long as humans have!
But that’s exactly the reason you need to make sure to walk a lot if you want a body that works at its best.
Human beings evolved as walking animals. We are designed to walk. That means that many body systems depend on the action of walking in order to stay healthy.
In our modern age, where we have eliminated the need to walk for long distances to find food and shelter, our bodies still need the physical inputs that walking brings. Walking is a whole body movement that’s absolutely necessary to your health and wellbeing!
Things I Love About Walking
One of the very best things about walking is that unlike Lagree or Crossfit, it’s totally FREE. So it’s super good for you and you don’t have to pay for it, which basically makes it perfect. You can also do it pretty much anytime, anywhere, so it’s really convenient to fit into your schedule.
Second is that almost everyone can do it, no matter what their level of health and fitness.
Third is that it’s incredibly good for you!
How Walking Can Help You
Let’s get more specific. Here’s a short list of my favourite ways that walking can benefit you.
Walking helps keep your metabolism up and your blood pressure down! It decreases diabetes risk, too.
Although we don’t fully understand the mechanisms, it’s clear that humans who walk a lot have way better heart health. I would guess this is because it’s a slow and steady way to deliver oxygen to lots of cells (since it uses many, many muscles). Nothing high pressure and stressful like long distance running, or physically limiting like cycling. Just plenty of oxygen delivered at the optimal rate.
Bones increase or decrease their density according to mechanical forces. When they’re regularly loaded, they bulk up. When they never bear weight, they lose density.
A lot of osteoporosis and loss of bone density issues happen at the hips – joints that are supposed to regularly get loaded each time you take a step.
Mental and emotional health
Walking has lots and lots of mental and emotional health benefits, including decreasing stress and helping your memory. Walking just 200 minutes a week can help ease depression.
Want to amp up the goodness?
Walking in nature gives more benefits than just walking. It actually helps your brain work differently so you don’t fret so much about bad stuff. In today’s world, that’s super important!!
All Walking Is Good, But Some Walking Is Better
So any walking has benefits. If it’s a choice between bad walking and no walking, I pick walking! But there are some simple ways you can make your walking even better.
Walking Better – Foot Position
Try standing up and take a look at your foot position.
I bet that if you drew lines along the outside edges of your feet they would point outwards instead of straight ahead.
If this is your habitual foot position when you walk, your big toe joints get stressed out (creating bunions). Also, it isn’t the best for your knees and hips.
Instead, see if you can line up your feet with their outside edges parallel, and practice standing and walking like this. Yes, it will feel pigeon toed. Go with it – eventually you’ll feel more normal.
Walking Better – Volume
So you know how they say 10,000 steps a day? I’d say that’s a good start! Most of us don’t even get 4,000. So if that’s you, definitely start adding more bit by bit!
But if you’re an overachiever like me, it would be even better to have maybe 5,000 one day, and 17,000 another day, and 11,000 the day after that – switching it up is going to be closer to what human bodies were evolved for.
Breaking your walking into multiple shorter walks is also a really good idea – that way your cells get fed multiple times a day, which they really love.
Since we already know that it’s really important to move at least every 30 minutes try using this time to add a 5 minute walk to your life!
What really helps me walk more is to use my walks to run my errands. Building walking into my life as my transportation method means I walk more without having to take time out of my life to go for a walk (unless I want to!).
Walking Better – Shoes
If your shoes have heels of any kind, they are making your walking less healthy.
Heels force your whole body forward, which means that you add wear and tear to your joints each time you take a step. This is a major contributor to osteoarthritis and knee and foot issues.
One of the best things you can do for your whole entire body – and your lifelong wellness – is to make a careful transition to minimal shoes!
Walking Better – Environment
Walking is not walking is not walking. There is a HUGE difference between walking on flat and level pavement, or hiking up a mountain, or strolling on a beach.
Walking exclusively on flat and level surfaces means you make almost exactly the same movements each time you take a step. This can lead to overuse/underuse injuries because you always move the same way all the time.
Natural surfaces, varied terrain, and different grades going up and down hills all give important movement variety to your body. Your body has to move more and get stronger and more mobile to deal with the challenges of natural surfaces. The more you walk on natural surfaces, the more your body will thank you.
Live in a city or a place without much nature? You can still benefit from more variety by finding grassy edges, parks, and other non-sidewalk surfaces to walk on. I live in a big city (Toronto, Canada) and am often amazed by how much I’m able to not walk on the pavement.
There’s so much to say about walking, but hopefully this is a good reminder that this simple, free and fun activity is also one of the best things you can do for your whole body health! Now get out there and go for a walk!