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By Tom Hutchison  

We are all told by various experts and doctors that if we got off our sofas and started exercising, we would improve our chances of having a long and healthy life. The problem is that not all of us like the idea of cycling, running, or swimming, let alone playing sport. Not only that, but motivating ourselves to go for a sweat-inducing hour-long session at the gym is far harder than motivating ourselves to sit in front of the telly for an hour while staying perfectly sweat-free. There is, however, a form of exercise that most of us can do with relative ease: walking.

2 girls walk in the green fields

What Are the Physical Benefits?

Walking is arguably one of the most accessible yet effective forms of exercise and can result in a healthier, more energetic you. You don’t need equipment or a membership to do it, which makes it very hard for you to use the usual excuses. Being an aerobic activity, it helps to improve the body’s cardiovascular system, strengthening the heart and lungs, and helps to reduce the chance of illness.

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Going for a regular walk is also good for your bones and your circulation, and can help to increase muscular strength and endurance. An additional benefit is that the likelihood of injury is greatly reduced when compared with something like jogging. This stems from the fact that walking is a low impact activity. This means that you can continue exercising consistently, even as your bones, joints and muscles weaken with age. This regular activity will also help you reduce your risk of diseases, such as Type 2 Diabetes and certain cancers, increase your ‘good’ cholesterol and boost your immune system.  

What Are the Mental Benefits?

Walking not only helps to keep you physically fit, but can also help to keep you mentally fit. Like other forms of exercise, walking will release endorphins, which will help to reduce stress and improve mood. Your sleeping patterns can also be improved by going for a regular walk and, furthermore, this regular physical activity combined with being outside in the fresh air can help to prevent and treat mild to moderate depression. Your improved physical fitness and greater ability to control your body weight will also help to improve confidence and body image, another mental benefit of regular walking.  

How Many Calories Does It Burn?

By now you can see clearly that walking can aid you in keeping fit and staying healthy, but how does this translate into calories burnt? The specific amount you’ll burn depends on your weight, but on average you could expect to burn 135 to 200 calories in 30 minutes whilst walking at a moderate pace, e.g. 4 miles per hour. This may not sound a lot, but when you compare that to the 23-33 calories burnt whilst sitting and watching TV for 30 minutes, it starts to sound like quite a healthy amount.  

How Much Walking Should You Do?

Experts recommend that around 10,000 steps a day will be enough for you to start improving your fitness. This is the equivalent of around 4-5 miles of walking, which at a moderate 4 miles per hour pace would take around an hour and a half to complete. You may think 4-5 miles sounds daunting and insist that you don’t have a spare hour and a half to dedicate to walking, but if those 4-5 miles are broken down then it is considerably more manageable: instead of driving a mile down the road to the shops, walk the two miles there and back; walk the kids that half a mile to school and back; take a 30 minute stroll before dinner. It all adds up and can lead to a longer and a better quality of life. Those 90 minutes a day could see you burning up to 500 additional calories, which in a week could see you lose up to 1 pound.  

Try to Mix It Up

If you feel that walking for exercise sounds boring, then do it with a friend. You’ll still be able to chat just as much during a 30 minute walk as you would be able to if you spent 30 minutes sat in a café. Alternatively you could listen to music, or take inspiration from Stephen Fry, who has revealed that he listened to audiobooks as he walked his way to better health and fitness. You can also vary where you walk to see new parts of the world around you, and when combining this with some ever-changing, self-set goals, walking will never become boring again.   Now you know of the potential improvements in both physical and mental fitness that can be achieved by doing something as easy as going for a regular walk. So get out there and start walking your way to a slimmer, fitter you. Slow and steady really can win the race.