According to government guidelines a sedentary lifestyle counts as anything less then 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Many of us with desk jobs just aren’t getting enough exercise and it’s becoming a global problem. 31% of adults in 2008 were ‘insufficiently active’. Inactivity is really bad for us, it is estimated that 3.2 million deaths a year are attributable to physical inactivity. This is why we’re supporting National Walking Month. Walking is an easy way to fit more exercise in your life and it has many health and fitness benefits.
1. It lowers stress levels
Spending time outdoors in green spaces and moderate exercise have been proven to lower stress levels. Stress heightens our sensitivity to pain so if you are suffering from an injury or chronic pain walking can really help. Lowering your stress has numerous positive affects on your health and will help you sleep better.
2. It gives us an energy boost
Moderate exercise reduces fatigue and boosts our energy levels. If you’re feeling fatigued due to lack of activity, having a rest is not going to help! Walking to work in the morning can give us more energy to face the day and walking home again can help fight off the tiredness we feel after a draining afternoon, allowing us to enjoy our evening more.
3. Walking in nature improves our memory and attention span
Spending time outside in nature improves our memory and ability to concentrate. Walking in nature has a similar affect on the brain as meditation does. Aim for a long walk in the countryside on weekends, a 20 minute walk in a city park on your lunch break or cut through a green space on your way to work. Even if you don’t enjoy the walk and it’s freezing cold – you’ll still feel more focused.
4. It helps your heart
Walking is cardiovascular exercise. Regular brisk walking can improve heart and lung function. 30 minutes of walking a day can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as helping to reduce your blood pressure.
5. It helps to maintain strong muscles and joints
Walking, especially up or down hills and steps, can strengthen your quads, glutes and calves. If you walk with good posture and tighten your abdominal muscles while you walk, it’s good for your tummy muscles too. Having a strong torso and legs will help you avoid injuries, joint pain and back pain.
6. It reduces your risk of disease
Regular walking has been shown to cut the risk of type 2 diabetes. According to Macmillan Cancer Support, walking for a mile a day can reduce your risk of developing cancer by 40%. If you have cancer or have had cancer in the past, walking often can help to stop your cancer from getting worse or coming back.
7. Its easy
Walking is suitable for children, elderly people or people with arthritis and injuries. It’s a gentle exercise that you don’t need to be super fit to do. It’s something you can slowly build on. You may start by including a 20 minute walk to the local shop each day and gradually increase your activity until you’re able to go on long hikes up mountains in the peaks! If your work is a 30 minute drive away or less, its arguably easier to walk to work than it is to drive or get the bus. No parking fees, bus fairs or traffic. Less commuter stress and less risk of being late for work.
It’s an activity that’s easy to monitor and set goals for. You can use a cheap pedometer or a pedometer app on your phone and aim for 10,000 steps a day, raising your steps by 500 each week until you meet your target.
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, walking for just 15-30 minutes a day can provide so many health benefits, it’s really worth making the effort. Living Streets, the UK charity for every day walking are helping people set a target of 20 minutes of walking a day and provide tips on how to meet it. Have a go at incorporating walking into your life and enjoy the benefits to your mood, health and fitness!