I’m the kind of person who really loves most exercise. I love the way movement in general makes my body feel — strong, energized and empowered. And I’ve pretty much tried it all, with the exception of CrossFit. But lately, I’ve been going on more long walks and I’m loving them so much. So I thought I’d share more about why I love walking for exercise, and what benefits I’m noticing from my regular long walks.
Does walking count as exercise?
I’ll be honest, I used to think walking didn’t really count as exercise. This was back when I thought that exercise had to be incredibly strenuous and even somewhat brutal in order to really be effective. (Oh, the things I’d go back and say to younger Elizabeth…)
But since turning 40, I find that I feel that way less and less than I used to.
What I’m finding is that I enjoy lower impact workouts more like brisk walking (meaning, walking at a pace that makes you feel slightly breathless), yoga, mat pilates and some light hand weights.
And I’m finding that my body feels better with these kinds of workouts, which is one reason why I love walking for exercise.
The best exercise is the one you’ll do regularly
It’s important to remember that the best exercise you can do is one that you enjoy, since you’ll be more likely to stick with what you enjoy and do it regularly. And, you also have to remember that what you enjoy and what works best for your body, won’t necessarily be the same as what I enjoy and what works best for my body. Honor what feels best for YOU. That’s what we mean when we say make more intuitive choices around food, movement and lifestyle.
Also, keep in mind that exercise is an important component for maintaining a healthy weight. But it’s not going to help you with your goals all on its own. Diet and exercise together (along with getting good sleep and reducing stress hormones) is the real key to better health and reaching and maintaining weight goals.
With all that said, here are the reasons why I love walking for exercise:
1. Walking is fun and it feels good
Walking feels fun and good for the body because human bodies were designed for walking! It’s a natural movement for us and it feels good both physically and mentally. It feels good physically because it’s low impact. I have also found that I don’t have to really hype myself up to go for a nice long walk. I enjoy it so much, there’s no hype needed. The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said, “Walking is a man’s best medicine.”
2. Walking relieves stress and helps to improve my mood
Brisk walking never fails to lift my mood and relieve any stress that I’m feeling. And I have endorphins to thank for that, those chemicals that our bodies produce that are natural pain relievers and mood boosters and can even make us feel euphoric. Also, being outside in the fresh air and in nature further helps to lower stress levels. After a 45-minute to one-hour walk, I always feel like I’ve let off a load of steam, which helps me to be a less reactive mom, wife, daughter and friend. It’s a win for everyone!
3. Walking boosts my energy
I always get an energy boost from a good walk. I’m sure this has a lot to do with the increased blood flow when the heart is pumping harder. I always say that energy breeds more energy, meaning you have to move first in order to create more energy. I love how energized walking makes me feel.
4. Walking feels good on my joints
In fact, I was telling a friend just the other day that walking opens the front of my hips even more than yoga seems to (I’m also a practicing yogi). This is likely because walking helps to lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support the joints, specifically the knees and hips. I’ve always had trouble with tightness on the front of my hips, and a combination of walking and yoga seems to do the trick for me as far as releasing that tension and tightness.
5. Walking burns calories
This is not the main reason I love to walk. I walk for the way it makes me feel! But I have noticed that when I take a brisk walk that’s around an hour, my Apple Watch shows that on average, I burn between 350 and 400 calories. And, research has shown that regular daily walking increases metabolism, which is even more important as we age.
6. Walking tones the bum and thighs
I can definitely feel this happening when I’m walking up a big hill in our neighborhood! Brisk walking helps to tone the thighs, bum and waist. Even better if you want to pump your arms while walking (yes, I do this!). Be sure you’re incorporating some hills into your walks, if possible.
7. Walking allows me to spend time with friends (virtually!), or with myself
I love to set up a call with a friend or family member and chat while I walk. It gives me an opportunity to socialize and catch up with people outside of my home. It almost feels like I’m walking with a friend, which makes the walk even that much more enjoyable. But on the days that I need to spend some quiet time with myself, I honor that and just be with my own thoughts and feelings, tuning into myself more with every step.
Do you also love walking for exercise? I’d love to hear why you love it! Feel free to leave your comment below. Elizabeth xo