Walking is something we do every day. Perhaps, this is the reason why some people don’t consider it as an “exercise”. Well, I’m here to prove to you that it is! In fact, it isn’t just a dull, boring physical activity — it is a proven way to improve our total well-being! Plus, you can easily do it anytime and anywhere! ?
As you read further, you will learn the positive effects of walking on many aspects of our midlife health. I will also share some tips with you to make your walking exercises more enjoyable! If you’re the type who’s always up for a challenge, I got fun-tastic ways to amp up your walking experience! Let’s get it on with the surprising health benefits of walking! ?
What are the Health Benefits of Walking?
Oh, I tell you… THERE’S A LOT! For one, walking has greatly helped me cope with stress. You see, it’s actually more than just a physical thing! Walking can be your mental and emotional “time-out” too, when some days get a little draining. Walk that stress away! Keep reading and learn more health benefits you can get from walking! ?
Boosts Mood: Just like any exercise, walking also boosts the production of our stress-busting hormones called “endorphins”. These hormones are behind the “natural high” we get whenever we work out! Walk regularly and witness how much it can improve your mood and even increase your self-esteem!
Increases Creativity: “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking”, said philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. So, why not take a walk outside and embrace the open space?! That way, the blood flow to your brain is increased! It gives you time to see things from a bigger, wider perspective!
Helps Burn Calories and Lose Weight: Of course, it does promote weight loss! Walking is a low-impact aerobic exercise that’s perfect for you if you want a healthier weight. Tom Holland, an Exercise Physiologist and marathoner, said that you can absolutely see weight loss results from walking 30 minutes daily. A 30-minute walk can burn around 150-200 calories, depending on factors like speed and bodyweight!
Promotes Better Heart Health: Besides keeping our mind and soul happy, walking also keeps the heart healthy! Studies found that for six years, moderate-intensity walking led to reductions in three risk factors for heart disease and stroke – high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes!
Strengthens Bones and Muscles: Brisk walking, inclined walking and interval walking (we will talk about different types of walks later), challenges your body to carry your weight in new ways. This further benefits your muscles and bones! Without a doubt, walking can be your best friend in optimizing the health of your bones and muscles!
Improves Sleep Quality: You might be thinking, “Oh, of course! Who doesn’t get a great sleep after walking for miles?!” Well, that’s partly true! But more than that, the Arthritis Foundation actually found that women (aged 50 to 75) who walked for an hour every morning were less likely to have insomnia than those who did not!
Reduces Cravings: You and I both know how hard it gets to give in to our cravings sometimes! Luckily, walking may have an appetite‐reducing effect on the body! Experts found that subjects produced a lower brain response to food images on days when they performed a 45‐minute brisk walk, as opposed to days when they didn’t walk! Amazing, right?! One of the reasons why walking may help curb cravings is its ability to increase dopamine in the body. This hormone gives an increased sense of pleasure and satisfaction (the same way you may feel after indulging in a chocolate bar!).
Keeps the Lymphatic System Moving: When we walk, the muscles in our legs and feet contract. This action helps move the fluids around our body, which is super healthy for our lymphatic system! Besides the muscle contraction, we also tend to breathe more when we walk — that’s another terrific way to promote the health of our lymph’s “superhighways”! If you didn’t know yet, our lymphatic system functions as our body’s natural “waste drainage system”. Without it, the toxins in our body will not have a way out! When this happens, they can cause inflammation, stress, adrenal fatigue, nerve damage, anxiety and depression, poor gut health, weight gain and hormonal imbalance.
Boosts Immunity: Studies show that a single session of brisk walking for 20-30 minutes leads to increased activation of immune cells! With regular exercise, these positive responses are thought to contribute to a stronger immune system in menopause! Moreover, walking alone promotes various aspects of our midlife health — the circulatory system, lymphatic system, respiratory system and many more. When all the systems inside our body are working well, it’s easier to maintain internal balance!
Haven’t had enough of the perks of walking? Well, watch and learn as the physicians of Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center consider walking as “the best medicine”! ?
12 Fun Ways to Do Your Walking Sessions!
Since we’re talking about walking as a form of exercise, why not make it fun?! Listen to your favorite podcast or playlist… Press that play button and walk the talk, my friend! ?
Walk with a Dose of Sunshine: Oh, I’m a huge fan of this, especially during winter! Walking outside and getting some sun gives us a great dose of vitamin D. That’s another mood-boosting vitamin to enjoy!
Don’t-Feel-Like-Doing-It Walk: I am all for getting that fresh breeze of air! It’s just that on some days, you really don’t feel like doing it, no matter how much you try convincing yourself. The best alternative for this “internal battle” is walking indoors! Yup, it may sound a little weird but it can actually be a lot of fun! Here’s an awesome video and playlist from fitness enthusiast Lucy Read! She will show you that it’s possible to go from 1,000 steps to 10,000 in the comfort of your warm abode! ?
Breaktime Walk: Whether you’re in the office, doing the chores at home or managing your business, walking is a great way to spend your break! It gives you a recharging “reset” and lets you pick things up where you left them with better focus!
Garden Walk: This one is for my plant-loving ladies out there! As much as possible, Whenever you’re in your little paradise, spice up your hobby and do lots of walking as much as possible whenever you’re in your little paradise! Sing to your flowers and bloom with them!
Doggy Walk: The challenge level of this type of walk will depend on the size of your “best friend”! Nevertheless, it’s great to have some playful company!
Love Walk: Speaking of good company, another lovely way to do your exercise is doing it with your favorite person! It can keep you motivated and engaged while walking! Also, you can have someone to compare your progress with — this could give you a little push!
Skip the Car and Stairs: If you need to pick up something at the grocery store a few miles away, skip driving and go for a walk instead! Also, if you’re not in a rush at the mall or office, choose the stairs like no one cares!
Go Barefoot: “Earthing” or “grounding” is a method of reconnecting with nature. When we walk barefoot on the soil, grass or the beach, we absorb the Earth’s natural electrons through the soles of our feet — making us feel better!
Terrain Walk: If you live in a town, try to find a park! You can also drive to a nearby forest or hill! As said above, nature is powerful in improving our mood. Also, the terrains are great for those who are up for the challenge of the wild trails! Do it — rain or shine! Don’t let the rain stop you. Run wild and feel like a child!
Walk with Poles: Another way to give yourself a little challenge while walking is by using poles! They keep your arms moving as well while you walk around. This is a terrific way to give your whole body a workout! I use my pair of poles when walking and do you know what I love the most? They keep my balance whenever I go trekking in the mountains with my hubby! Watch this video from Urban Poling and learn how to use a pair of poles! ?
Interval Walk: If your primary goal is to lose weight, interval walking is the perfect type for you! There are many ways to do this! Start by warming up, then walk at your normal pace. When you start feeling the cheetah in you come alive, walk faster for 20 seconds! Then, go back to your normal pace. You can repeat this whole “normal-fast-normal” routine 5-10 times! You can also play around and beat a street light! The only goal here is to walk until your heart pumps a little faster. For as long as you don’t forget to catch some breath, you are definitely hitting a home run for your health, babe!
Mix It Up: If you want to enhance your whole exercise routine, mix up your walking sessions with other exercises like yoga, Pilates and strength training. These workout combinations are surefire ways for you to say goodbye to those extra pounds!
…and if you’re a fan of Michael Jackson, you can definitely do a moonwalk! ?
Is There a Proper Way to Walk?
Well, not to make you feel like you’re on a runway but, YES! Physical therapists recommend practicing walking techniques. It’s a great way to ensure you’re making the best out of your walking exercise. Walking in the proper manner can also save you from any possible injury!
Here’s a video from Dr. Justin Lin — a Certified Functional Manual Therapist. In this video from Rehab and Revive, Dr. Lin explains and demonstrates how the hip, legs and arms correlate to proper walking! ?
Also, it’s a good thing to find out how many steps you walk daily. Make it your baseline! Then, work up toward the goal of 10,000 daily steps by adding 1,000 extra steps daily. Before you know it, you’re already a master hiker! Want to discover some tools to help and track your progress in walking? We got them further down!
For me, the general and most important “rule” is to walk with your head up. Carry that body with confidence! Let your legs and feet take the lead spontaneously. Give your arms the space they need to embrace life! Put a priceless smile on your face and get a smile back from people. Keep your heart pumping. Feel alive! ?
Gadgets to Help and Track Your Progress!
With today’s technology, many useful things that can help us track our progress! Of course, we need some help here! How are we supposed to keep an accurate count of 10,000 daily steps? ?
Here are the gadgets that made things easier for me while exercising!
1 – Apple Watch, iPhone and the Fitness+ application
The Apple Watch is equipped with sensors that give you all the metrics you need to track your walks and other physical exercises! Also, through its built-in app Fitness+, you can sync your exercise information to your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV in real-time. What an awesome way to keep you motivated and engaged!
2 – Smart Scale
One of the best advantages of using a smart scale is keeping a digital, long-term health history. The device transfers the data wirelessly to your smartphone, so there’s no need to record results manually!
Here’s another thing I love about it: “Compared to the typical “dial” scale, smart scales tend to be much more accurate for routine weight management.” — Dr. Katie Rosenfeld, a Weight Loss Clinic Physician with DuPage Medical Group Obesity Medicine.
My smart scale also gives me data on my BMI, water retention, muscle mass and more! But hey… Just take the scale as a tool to keep you on track and take advantage of its other functions. Whether you’re using a digital or dial scale, don’t get too hooked on the numbers, alright? Never forget the fun in staying healthy!
3 – Phone Armband
An armband or phone holder is essential for walking and running. You can concentrate better when you’re not burdened by your phone! Also, an armband can be a lifesaver if you need your phone in an emergency!
4 – Wireless/Bluetooth Earphones
Most fitness enthusiasts prefer wireless or Bluetooth earbuds that come with flexible ear hooks. These hooks ensure a stay-in-place fit to deliver high-quality sound while listening to music! Staying wireless can also make your whole walking exercise more convenient without the “noodles” (wires) getting in the way!
If you want to know more about my go-to products that support my health in menopause, check out my favorites!
Fun Fact: The 10,000 steps daily goal originally came from a Japanese research team led by Dr. Yoshiro Hatano. They found that the average person took 3,500 to 5,000 steps each day — and that if they increased it to 10,000, they could significantly improve their overall health! Dr. Hatano’s calculations also estimated that 10,000 steps could burn around 20% of an individual’s caloric intake.
A few decades later, the 10,000 steps goal has been embraced by health organizations worldwide as a motivational guideline. The World Health Organization (WHO), the American Heart Foundation, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) and Australia’s National Heart Foundation all recommend 10,000 steps a day as a sensible and achievable goal for improving your health and reducing the risk of diseases!
I hope you’ve seen the importance of walking for our overall health in menopause! Personally, I always go for a walk during lunch. It keeps me more focused and energized throughout the day! My hubby and I also take a short walk after dinner (instead of reaching for that little sweet treat) because it helps with better digestion! So, go for whatever works best for you! Make it a habit. Don’t forget the tips I shared with you in making your walking sessions more enjoyable!
Always stay hydrated when exercising and track your progress with helpful tools! In every aspect of life, all it takes is one step at a time for you to get to your goal — no matter how big or far it is. ?
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Gita is the founder of My Menopause Journey. Since 2014, she has been supporting midlife women by sharing hard-earned learnings from her own experience. To advance her knowledge, Gita puts a lot of her time and effort into understanding the broad spectrum of women’s health. She immerses in extensive research about the physical, mental and emotional aspects of menopause. Gita believes in the life-changing power of healthy, holistic living — this is where she anchors her message to all women. Learn more about her marvelous mission in About us - My Menopause Journey.