One of the first exercises I have my clients do is walking. If you haven’t been exercising walking is a great place to start with exercise. Here are some of the benefits of walking. I’ve listed several benefits of walking that are specific to problems that midlife women face.
In an earlier blog post, I discussed whether or not walking helps with weight loss and fitness. Walking is good for you and the benefits extend beyond weight loss and beyond fitness.
Being outdoors, especially in nature helps to reduce stress. In a Japanese study participants who spent 3 days in the forest reduced their levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Walking in nature can be almost meditative for some people and also has the stress reducing properties of cardiovascular exercise. But if you can’t get outside you can try a walking meditation in your house. Many people who struggle with sitting meditations enjoy the movement of a walking meditation.
Walking can also help to improve creativity. Researchers at Stanford University found that improved creativity of test subjects. If you’ve ever been frustrated with a problem and gone for a walk, you may have found the solution. I do my best problem solving and planning while out for a walk.
When you walk, your body produces more endorphins which help you to feel good. Walking is a definitely an exercise that makes you feel good.
Any type of physical activity will improve your sleep. Women who walk more have better sleep than women who walk less. This is especially true if you walk more than usual on a given day
If you are not an endurance athlete you may not see the need for endurance, but endurance is important for your daily life. If you walk often you are better equipped to handle long shopping trips, last through a long day at work, cook a big dinner, clean the house, or do yard work.
Women who walk more than a mile a day have better bone density and suffer from less bone loss than women who don’t walk. If you have osteoporosis, walking alone will not be enough to increase bone density, but it will help to maintain it.
One of the benefits of walking is improving balance. This is particularly important if you have osteoporosis because it helps to prevent fractures due to falling. Walking helps to strengthen the leg muscles, and improves your proprioception, your ability to understand where your body is in space. If you are confident on a level route, then add some uneven terrain to improve your balance even more.
Lowers blood sugar
Walking helps to balance blood sugar. Your muscles use the glucose stored in your blood. A study published in Diabetes care found that 3 short walks each day were effective at reducing blood sugar in pre-daibetics. Walking after a meal was shown to be particularly effective.
Lowers blood pressure
A study done by Korean researchers found that 40 minutes of walking each day lowered blood pressure in people who suffered from hypertension. A study at the university of Western Australia showed that the benefits of walking 30 minutes in the morning were similar to taking blood pressure medication. Women also benefited from 3 minute bouts of walking every 30 minutes.
Walking doesn’t burn as many calories as other more intense forms of exercise, but you can walk for longer and you can do it every day. So walking can end up contributing to the daily calorie burn and help to provide healthy weight loss. Because walking lowers blood sugar, it helps you to reduce the weight gain caused by blood sugar spikes.
Reduces risk of developing breast cancer
A study by the American Cancer Society found that women who walked for seven or more hours each week were less likely to develop breast cancer than those who walked less. It may be that this is because of several of the other benefits of walking which can also help to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Reduces joint pain and lowers risk of developing arthritis
Joint pain due to arthritis and other reasons becomes more prevalent as we get older. Walking helps to lubricate and strengthen joints so joint pain is less noticeable. And women who walk more are less likely to develop osteoarthritis.
Can be used with more intense exercise as an active rest
If you are weight training or doing interval training a short walk makes a good active rest. It keeps your heart rate up and keeps you moving, but lets the muscles rest. At the gym you might be able walk around a track. If you can workout outside you can use walking as part of your interval workout.
May lead to more exercise
If you start walking and see an increase in your fitness levels this can motivate you to make more changes. You might decide to increase your walk to a jog, add some weight training or maybe some yoga.
Walking improves energy levels
Many midlife women suffer from low energy levels. This is a common symptom of menopause, but it can also be caused by lack of exercise, poor diet, lack of sleep and stress. Walking helps to improve energy levels in several ways. Any exercise done in the right amount will help to improve energy levels. Since walking also helps to improve sleep and reduce stress it helps in those ways as well. The endorphins released when walking also help to increase energy levels.
How to get started
Make sure you start with a good pair of shoes. I explained how to choose shoes in this article. Use a treadmill at home or find a safe place to walk. Start slowly, maybe a 10 to 20 minute walk to get started and work your way up to longer walks.
There are plenty of reasons for midlife women to walk. The biggest reason for many women is that walking is enjoyable. Checkout the Healthy Changes Program for more ideas to stay fit and healthy.