There is one unheralded exercise that almost everybody can do, indeed they do it everyday, it has huge proven benefits, costs nothing and is completely practical and yet almost never regarded as an exercise – Walking!

It is a great pity but walking doesn’t enjoy high status amongst exercise activities. A 5km run is likely to draw admiring and impressed remarks whilst few people will sound too bothered by or interested in your three mile walk.

A good hike in the hills sounds far less worthy of commendation than hill sprints or fell running.

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And an exercise plan based around regular walks hardly sounds ambitious, ground-breaking or interesting. Yet all of this, as true as it may be, does walking an enormous disservice as an exercise, healthy recreation, booster for heart health, battler against fat and provider of body conditioning.

Walking health benefits

Walking has genuine health, fitness and conditioning properties, is the most generally achievable and accessible of activities and, in several respects, a better idea than running.

We’ve all seen those people who have set off for a run with the very best of admirable intentions, but are quickly reduced to a stumbling, stooped, grimly determined shuffle that, ironically, has become a slower form of locomotion than their natural walking pace.

If they only stopped, straightened up and simply walked at a reasonable pace using a decent arm swing, the benefits would be considerable to heart rate, lung function, posture, lower body toning, blood circulation, bone strength and general mobility.

Benefits of walking_2

And all with vastly reduced impact issues associated with running.

Many tests have conclusively shown that walking is much more than our most fundamental form of propulsion.

The Centre of Disease Control & Prevention stated that “brisk walking has been shown to reduce body fat, lower blood pressure and reduce risks of bone fracture.”   And Professor Michael Joyner of the world renowned Mayo Clinic has commented, “I personally think that brisk walking is far and away the best single exercise.”

Harvard School of Public Health found that brisk walking – determined to be around 3.5 mph – was absolutely associated with preventing weight gain and maintaining weight loss.

The Honolulu Heart Study of 8000 men showed that a two mile daily walk cut the risk of fatal heart disease in half whilst also indicating significant decline in cancers.

But it’s not all physical.

A 1999 study showed that 45 minutes walking a day at 16 minute mile pace produced clear and measurable benefits in thinking skills. And like other exercise it is a proven mood lifting, endorphin releasing stress buster.

So it might not be the most dynamic of pursuits or an extreme adrenalin pumper, but the humble walking action is a truly beneficial exercise and is almost certainly the most inexpensive workout option.

Remember a new exercise plan begins with the first step. Sometimes literally! We live in a glorious county and should need little excuse to get out there for a good walk. We are spoilt for choice and shouldn’t need to rely on a designated month to remind us of the health benefits and practicality of walking.

There are almost 100 Walking Clubs in Surrey, UK alone, so it might be the unsung hero of exercise, but there is always plenty of scope for walking and remember, it has great social benefits too!

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