How walking 30 minutes a day can improve your health
If you are a regular reader, then you will know that we talk a lot about the benefits of vigorous cardio and strength training. In today’s post, we are going to bring things back to basics by looking at the benefits of walking for 30 minutes a day.
This post is suitable for people who are new to training and want to use walking as a way of becoming active.
It is also suitable for people who are already fit, as we will be discussing walking in the context of taking active rest days. Finally, we will look at the mental health benefits of going for a walk.
Walking as a beginner’s exercise
Walking is a cardiovascular exercise that promotes heart and lung health. When done regularly, it helps to maintain healthy blood pressure and to ensure proper oxygen flow throughout the body, which in turn supports all of our organs and cells.
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Why is walking 30 minutes a day good for you?
Most people know that walking is good for you. But it goes much deeper than burning off calories, getting your heart rate up and improving your mood. Some of the more technical health benefits are:
- Walking gets your heart pumping – circulating oxygen-rich blood around your heart.
- It stimulates your lymphatic system – which removes old cellular waste from your body.
- Boosts your metabolism – For up to 12 hours after the 30 minute walk ends.
- Walking for 30 mins will strengthen your bones – Studies have shown that people who walk even 1 mile per day have stronger, more dense bones than those who don’t!
What muscles does walking use?
A good stroll engages more muslces than you might think. Going for a walk is a form of bodyweight exercise, meaning that these muscles will become stronger and build endurance over time. The main muscles that walking engages are:
- Stomach muscles
Humans are designed to walk, making it one of the most accessible exercises to people of all fitness levels. If you are new to exercise, especially if you are very overweight, the thought going into a gym or jogging in public might fill you with dread. Home workouts using exercise equipment might be equally daunting, as these machines require a base level of fitness.
Walking represents a gateway to exercise as you can do it in public without anyone noticing and it is not going to leave you breathless or at risk of injury.
30 minutes of walking per day is a manageable and sustainable amount of exercise if you are at the beginning of your weight loss journey. Walking for less than 30 minutes will not be enough for you to notice the benefits. Attempting more vigorous exercise, such as jogging, could lead to burnout or injury.
Walking 30 minutes a day: calories burned
If you walk at a moderate pace, you will burn about 107, 133 or 159 calories (based on a weight of 125lb, 155lb or 185lb). At the end of the week, you will have burned 749, 931 or 1,113 calories just through walking.
Combined with a calorie-controlled diet, these numbers will soon add up. Moreover, once your confidence and ability increase, you can walk at a brisker pace and burn more calories.
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- Do you need to train to failure to build muscle?
30 min walks: weight loss without the sweat
Can you lose weight by walking 30 minutes each day? Yes. But there’s more to losing weight than the amount of exercise we do. However much you walk, it’s important to also consider the energy going into your body.
Whether you’re counting calories with an app or eating more healthy foods, your 30-minute walk needs to be part of an overall program for getting into shape and losing weight.
Research has shown that a healthy diet, combined with a walking program = weight loss.
A curious study: Walking for an hour vs walking for 60 minutes
Here’s something weird. Did you know that walking for half an hour will give you the same benefits as walking for a full hour? A recent study found that:
“30 min of walking on most days of the week may be as beneficial as 60 min (in combination with diet) in promoting numerous additional healthful outcomes”
Is half an hour of walking good for rest days?
If you are already a fit and healthy person who engages in strenuous cardio sessions and strength training, then you might think that walking cannot offer you anything or even disregard it as an exercise altogether.
This is a mistake!
We have written before about the benefits of taking active rest days, whereby you do not train but you keep your body active and do something to get your heart rate up.
Walking is the perfect activity for active rest days because it is a low impact, gentle form of cardio that helps to condition your internal health – i.e. your heart and respiratory system – and promotes fluidity in the joints.
Moreover, walking is something that you can do with a friend or with your family. Training in a home gym or in a public gym (remember those days?) is a very focused activity, such that if you do it with another person then you are not really spending quality time together.
Walking 30 minutes is much easier and more relaxing; you can have a conversation and spend quality time with people while doing it. And, if you have kids, you can always add in a mini-HIIT session by chasing them around for a bit!
Is it better to do power (boosted) walking for 30 minutes to lose weight?
It would make sense that doing a really fast walk would burn off more calories and help you lose weight faster right? Well hold on there, speedy; the research has something to say on that too.
An interesting study conducted at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada found that you’ll actually lose weight faster by walking at your own pace. So slow down and find your walking style if you want to shed a few pounds!
30 mins walking is good for your mental health
Walking has taken on new importance since the pandemic began, as it has often represented one of the few opportunities that we have had to get out of the house.
Hopefully, we are transitioning back to having more freedom and suppressing the virus, but we would be wise to remember the mental benefits that walking has brought us over the last year.
Studies have shown that regular walking helps to decrease stress levels and ease mild depression and anxiety symptoms. Going for a walk in nature is a relaxing activity that helps to clear the mind. If you find it difficult to relax, you could benefit from practising meditation.
This can be done while walking, all you need to do is focus on a point in the distance and, if a thought pops into your head, breathe through the distraction.
Walking as a part of life
Walking is one of those things that everyone should do because everyone can stand to gain from it. Whether it is for fitness, for fun, a social thing, a chance to enjoy nature, or a setting to gather your thoughts, walking offers something for everyone.