The benefits of walking outdoors are the most underappreciated and underutilised, most exercise in history. Also, the simplicity of this exercise makes it a shoo-in for every type of training goal.
So put your trainers on, tie up your laces and get yourself some fresh air. Something as simple as walking 30 minutes a day will literally change your life for the better. But why, specifically, is walking such a powerful form of exercise?
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The Benefits Of Walking Outdoors
There are numerous benefits to walking outdoors, these include:
- Reduce feelings of anxiety and depression
- Get your daily dose of Vitamin D
- Improved joint mobility
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- Increase cardiovascular endurance
- Improve muscular endurance
- Helps to burn fat
- Easy way to improve a sedentary lifestyle
With all these benefits in mind, you should really start to believe in the power of walking. Lets look at these benefits in more detail.
Reduce Feelings Of Anxiety And Depression
The heart working harder whilst walking increases the circulation of blood around the body, but also to the brain. According to an article from WebMD, it has a positive influence on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is your central nervous response system. This is good because the HPA axis is responsible for your stress response.
Walking outdoors can be an effective way to reduce stress levels by providing exposure to nature, increasing Vitamin D levels, promoting physical activity and providing a change of scenery and distraction. Being in nature has been shown to have a calming effect on the mind and body. Walking allows for the opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of the natural world.
Additionally, walking outdoors can provide a change of scenery and a break from daily routine and technology, which can be a source of stress, and it can be a good opportunity to disconnect and be present in the moment, promoting mindfulness and relaxation.
Related Article – L Theanine: The Stress Relief Supplement
Get Your Daily Dose Of Vitamin D
You can still get Vitamin D from the sun when it is not super sunny outside. The light itself from just being outside will suffice. Obviously, Summer time is the most beneficial time for getting natural Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that has many benefits for the body. It helps the body absorb calcium, which is necessary for strong bones and teeth. Adequate vitamin D intake can also lower the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle.
Additionally, research suggests that vitamin D may have benefits for the immune system, helping to reduce the risk of certain infections and autoimmune disorders.
Improved Joint Mobility
Walking outdoors is a low-impact exercise that increases blood flow to cartilage, which helps cartilage get the nutrients it needs to cushion and protect the ends of bones in your joints. Plus, any movement helps lubricate your joints, which decreases pain and stiffness and increases the range of motion.1
Additionally, walking on uneven surfaces such as grass, dirt, or gravel can help to improve the range of motion in the joints, as the body is required to adjust to the changing terrain. This can help to reduce stiffness and improve flexibility.
Related Article – What Is The Best Type Of Exercise For Bad Knees?
Reduces Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease
Getting outside and walking is used as a preventative form of exercise to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Evidence from epidemiological studies suggests that even small improvements in the amount of daily walking are better than no walking, and show increases in cardiovascular health benefits.2
Improves Cardiovascular Endurance
When walking outdoors, you use your large muscle groups to consistently be in action. This constant movement requires the lungs and heart to work harder by supplying oxygen and blood to the muscles.
The heart is trained indirectly like a muscle. Therefore it becomes stronger and more efficient thus improving levels of cardiovascular endurance.
Improves Muscular Endurance
Walking requires the use of multiple muscle groups including the legs, glutes, core, and back. As you walk, your muscles work to support your body and keep you balanced, this repetitive movement will help to strengthen those muscles over time, making them better able to perform the same activity for a longer period of time. Additionally, as you increase the duration or intensity of your walks, your muscles will be further challenged and will continue to adapt and improve their endurance.
It’s worth noting that, as with any exercise, consistency is key. Regular walking, especially over time and gradually increasing the duration and intensity, is more likely to result in improvements in muscular endurance.
Helps To Burn Fat
Walking is a low-impact exercise that can be an effective way to burn fat. One of the ways it helps with fat burning is by increasing the number of calories you burn. The number of calories you burn while walking depends on your weight, the intensity of your walk, and the duration of your walk. The more you weigh, the more calories you burn, and the longer and harder you walk, the more calories you burn.
Walking can also help to boost your metabolism, which can make it easier to burn fat. Your metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories, and regular physical activity can help to increase it. When you walk, you are using muscles all over your body, which helps to increase your heart rate, and this in turn causes your body to burn more calories.
Related Article – What Type Of Cardio Is Best To Burn Fat?
Easy Way To Improve Sedentary Lifestyle
Walking outdoors stops you from being sedentary by getting up and moving. Sedentary lifestyles are linked with a whole host of health implications including obesity, certain types of cancer and serious joint and bone issues.
How Long Should I Walk A Day?
This very much depends on your own level of conditioning and experience walking. Use this calorie calculator from Verywellfit to work out how many calories you are burning depending on walking speed, time spent walking and your weight.
If you are new to walking, then start small – 5 minutes a day. Then progress it slowly, each day, over a few months until you can start to cover more and more ground on foot.
Is Just Walking Enough Exercise?
For people who are not very active or have a low fitness level, walking can be a great place to start. Regular walking can help to improve overall fitness and health and may be enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As their fitness level improves, they may choose to add more challenging activities to their routine to continue to improve their fitness and overall health.
However, whether walking is enough exercise depends on the individual’s fitness level and goals. For people who are already quite active and have a good level of cardiovascular fitness, walking alone may not be enough to maintain or improve their fitness level. In this case, they may need to add other forms of exercise such as strength training or increase the duration and intensity of their walks to continue to challenge their body.
What Is The Best Time To Go Walking?
There is no right or wrong answer, as each individual’s needs and requirements are different. But different studies have concluded different outcomes in regard to when the best time to walk is.
Benefits Of Morning Walks
- Reduced appetite throughout the day
- Get part or all of your exercise done early and promote more restful sleep at night
- Development of a habit which starts the day off in a healthy fashion
- Clear your mind, reduce stress and improve productivity levels throughout the day
Benefits Of Evening Walks
- After dinner walks help to digest food more effectively
- More calories are burnt by the body later on in the day
- Opportunity to unwind from the day and release tension or stress
- Gets you away from the TV and doing too much mindless activity in the evening
Choose Which Is Best For YOU
With these benefits in mind, there is not too much dissimilarity between the two. Both versions are likely to help you control weight and appetite as well as build healthy habits in your lifestyle. Ideally, you could do 30 minutes of both.
Unfortunately, the modern world makes it difficult to do this, with what can seem like endless amounts of responsibilities and no spare time. If you are not able to do both, choose whichever fits best into your schedule.
Things To Avoid When Walking
Below is a list of common mistakes whilst walking, that you should try to avoid where possible:
- Walking with your head looking down or playing on your phone – This promotes strain on the neck but also takes away from taking in your surroundings and being more mindful
- Listening to music all the time – Just leave your headphones at home every once in a while. Clear your mind and engage with the world around you more
- Walking the same route – This usually leads to similar thought patterns and ends up feeling like more of a chore or gets boring. This takes away from your creative thought processes.
- Walking in dangerous places – Don’t be a hero. You are not a coward for avoiding dodgy routes with low lighting when it is dark. Or taking potentially hazardous routes without letting someone know where you are first
- Breathing through your mouth – Try to avoid mouth breathing as much as possible. Mouth breathing has lots of negative effects on your body and mind. Read more about mouth breathing here.
Summary And Recommendations
Walking alone or with others has differing benefits. Walking alone gives you more clarity. Whereas, going with others allows you to socialise more effectively than just by sitting indoors. Also what time of the day you go for walks has differing benefits. The most important thing it to just get outside and get moving. You can figure out the rest whilst you are on your walk.
In summary, walking is beneficial for both your mind and body and is literally a walk in the park. So get your trainers on and lace-up.
- Murtagh EM, Murphy MH, Boone-Heinonen J. Walking: the first steps in cardiovascular disease prevention. Curr Opin Cardiol. 2010 Sep