Lichfield-based personal trainer Raúl Romero explains the health benefits of walking – some of them might surprise you.
During the long, bleak days of lockdown my friends and clients keep telling me about the one thing keeping them sane – the simple yet powerful act of walking. So what are the benefits of the one daily permitted lockdown walk that so many of us are enjoying?
Well there are a plethora of benefits of walking, not only physical but also mental and psychological. These include:
- Improved circulation:
Walking wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart. Post-menopausal women who walk just one to two miles a day can lower their blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks. Women who walk 30 minutes a day can reduce their risk of stroke by 20% and by 40% when they step up the pace, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
- Shoring up bones:
Walking can stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis, according to Michael A. Schwartz MD of Plancher Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in New York.
- Enjoying a longer life:
Research has found that people in their 50s and 60s who exercise regularly are 35% less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts. That number shoots up to 45% less likely for those who have underlying health conditions.
- Lightening the mood:
Walking releases natural pain killing endorphins in the body – one of the many emotional benefits of exercise. A California State University study showed that the more steps people took during the day, the more their mood improved.
- Losing Weight:
There really is no excuse to not achieve the fitness goal of losing weight during this pandemic with walking being one of the few exercises permitted in these difficult times. A simple, brisk 30 minute walk burns 200 calories. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropped.
- Strengthening muscles:
Walking tones the leg and abdominal muscles – and even arm muscles if you pump them as you walk.
- Improved sleep:
Studies have found that women aged 50 to 75 who took one-hour morning walks were more likely to sleep better than their non-walking counterparts.
- Supporting joints:
The majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply. It gets its nutrition from joint fluid that circulates as we move. Movement and compression from walking ‘squishes’ the cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area.
- Eating less chocolate:
Those with a sweet tooth will be glad to know that a simple 15 minute walk can help curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate that is consumed in stressful situations! (According to a study carried out by the University of Exeter).
Clients often ask me whether it is better to walk or to run. In the walking v running debate, personally I would go with running every time, but then I have always been a runner and running is a great passion of mine. However I have to admit that walking carries a far lower risk of injury than running.
The difference between the two is not based on pace. At any speed, walkers have one foot on the ground at all times, but runners are entirely airborne during some part of every stride. As the pace increases, the percentage of each stride that is airborne increases; competitive runners have ‘hang times’ of about 45%. What goes up must come down. That’s why running is a high-impact activity.
Each time they land, runners subject their bodies to a stress equal to about three times their body weight. In just one mile, a typical runner’s legs will have to absorb more than 100 tons of impact force. It’s a testament to the human body that running can be safe and enjoyable. At the same time, though, it’s a testament to the force of gravity that walkers have a much lower (1% to 5%) risk of exercise-related injuries than runners (20% to 70%).