About two years ago, I was full-on in the “running zone.” I would run about 15 miles a week (which for a novice, was a lot). I’d do about every race in my area, and I even won a few (in my age group). But about a year ago, I hit a wall. I couldn’t run anymore without being in a lot of knee pain. My endurance also seemed to get a lot worse and I’d be winded and exhausted after just the first mile. I chalked it up to over training, and not taking enough “rest days.” So now, I do still run… just not nearly at the same pace and I only do two to three miles at a time, only once or twice a week, instead of four days a week. So other than taking some group exercise classes at my gym, I’ve replaced running with walking. At first, I thought I was being lazy, but walking truly is great exercise, especially for those who hate running or “working out.”
First of all, walking is about the easiest exercise there is. You don’t need an expensive gym membership, or any equipment, other than a good pair of walking shoes and some great playlists. You can walk pretty much everywhere, too, and walking is much easier on your joints than running. So there are no excuses. You’ll reap the health and fitness benefits from just 20 to 30 minutes of walking a day! One of the best things about walking is that anyone, from the beginning exerciser to the seasoned athlete, will benefit!
One thing to keep in mind though… to get more fitness and weight-loss results, you need to walk at a fairly brisk pace. If I’m on the treadmill, I usually walk about 4 or 4.2 mph. The faster, farther and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits.
Walking won’t get you ripped or cut, but it’s great for modest fat loss and certainly helps maintain weight. Going for a walk after a meal can help with insulin response and stabilize blood glucose levels, which affect fat storage. You’ll burn off some of the calories you just consumed, as well!
Walking lowers your risk for chronic conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis (by strengthening bones). Some research suggests that walking helps lower risk of Alzheimer’s (I know you’re all much too young for that, but something to keep in mind).
Walking is also great for mental health! I can think, day dream and just de-stress when I’m out for a walk. I listen to my music, and just enjoy spending time alone. Of course, walking with a friend is great too, but I tend to prefer to walk alone with my music and my thoughts. It’s the best kind of therapy! I always feel great after going for a walk.
It’s easy to make walking a part of your day… if you don’t have time for one long walk, there are simple things you can do to walk more. You can park further away, take frequent “walking” breaks at work (even if you just walk down the hall and back a few times), walk to a co-worker’s office instead of emailing him/her, or take a 10-15 minute walk while on your lunch break or after dinner. Whatever you do, just move! The human body wasn’t meant to be sedentary, and walking is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body.