This year, many of us found ourselves in the midst of one of the hottest summers on record. Unless you belong to a gym or fitness center, it was hard to find time to get out and exercise when it wasn’t scorching outside. However, now that we’re in the midst of cooler fall weather, the opportunities to get out and get active have opened up.
The beauty of this stretch of the year is if you time it just right – in those early morning hours or just as dusk sets in – it’s the most glorious time to go for a walk. And, despite our want to get the old heart pumping and the muscles burning, the reality is there are a vast number of reasons to take a walk every day (or most days). Here are six of the benefits of walking – in case you need a reason to get out and get moving.
1. Lose Weight
Walking can be a great workout, but the key is we have to get our heart rates elevated enough to burn calories. However, walking for exercise isn’t one size fits all, so you have to know your target heart rate zone, which will allow you to determine how fast and how far you need to go to reach it. To track your heart rate, we recommend you invest in a heart rate monitoring watch so you can not only confirm you’re walking at a fast enough pace but make you can ensure you’re doing it safely.
To find out what you need to do to lose weight walking, calculate the following values:
- Resting heart rate. Count your pulse for 10 seconds, then multiply that number by 6 to find your resting heart rate.
- Maximum heart rate (MHR). Our maximum heart rate changes as we get older, decreasing with age. One simple yet effective way to find it is to subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 50 years old, your maximum heart rate is 170 (220-50=170).
- Target heart rate. This is the zone you want to get in to have an effective workout. It includes a lower value and an upper value based on your maximum heart rate.
- To find your lower heart rate, multiply your MHR by .65.
- To find your upper heart rate, multiply your MHR by .85.
- For example, if your MHR is 170, your lower zone would be 111, and your upper is 145 (values rounded). This is the zone you want to shoot for to see the most benefits when walking to lose weight.
2. Stay Fit
Staying fit is comparable to losing weight, but it’s more about your physical health and well-being. A brisk walk firms and tones the muscles in your legs and derriere, especially if you can incorporate an incline into your route. You can kick it up a notch by adding in some hand weights to work your arms, and you can even work your core by holding your abdominal muscles tight while walking. To see results, you’ll again want to make sure to get your heart rate up and move at a brisk pace.
3. Reduce Stress
There are a vast number of stress relievers out there, but for me, a walk is at the top of the list. The opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle and simply unplug is always one of my favorite times of the day. It helps that my walking buddy is a big handsome Golden Retriever that keeps both my pace and my spirits up.
I’ve also gotten into the habit of leaving my phone or any technology at home so I can think without interruption and focus on the world around me. I’ve come to discover that there isn’t anything that’s so important that it can’t wait 30 minutes or so for me to return from my walk, and the time away from my dinging distraction helps me to relax, focus, and get my stress level down. I always return feeling refreshed and ready to get back to reality.
You might also consider starting a walking routine with a buddy so you can chat and keep each other motivated to keep going every day. There are also a vast number of podcasts available to listen to, or you can enjoy your favorite music as you move along. Do what makes you happy for your best mental well-being.
4. Increase Endorphins and Improve Mood
One of my favorite movies is Legally Blonde; it’s empowering in a simple and silly way. In the words of the great Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” This is as true in the real world as it is on the big screen, so make sure to include a brisk walk in your day to release those endorphins and elevate your mood. You’ll find yourself being more productive and more positive as the day goes along if you work a self-care-focused walk into your day.
5. Boost Your Immune system.
WebMD lists a number of health benefits that you’ll get from walking, including potentially lowering blood sugar for diabetics, helping to protect against heart disease, and lowering your blood pressure and ‘bad’ cholesterol while increasing your ‘good’ cholesterol levels. All of these health benefits will have a boosting effect on your immune system, causing you to be healthier overall.
6. Reduce Inflammation
According to a study from the UCSD School of Medicine, “People showed reduced levels of inflammation markers in their blood after walking briskly on a treadmill for just 20 minutes.” The study goes on to explain that this is because of the release of adrenaline and norepinephrine during exercise, both of which are known to reduce our body’s inflammatory response.
There are many benefits of walking for people of all ages, but especially for mature women. One of the best parts is that you don’t need anything but a pair of comfortable shoes and a little motivation to get out and get moving. Going for a walk is especially lovely if you have a furry friend to take with you, a walking buddy you can chat with, or a podcast to listen to. Whatever it takes, just put one foot in front of the other and get moving!
This article is for informational purposes only, is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, and is not a substitute for medical advice.
Get Up and Get Moving