The simple act of going for a long walk has to be the more underrated forms of exercise there is.
And to understand why it’s so underrated, we have to understand the current state of the fitness industry.
Because unfortunately, the ‘fitness industry’ as it stands today, could be much more accurately renamed the ‘change your body shape with exercise’ industry.
Far too many people exercise purely for the intended purposes of losing weight or building muscle. And of course, that’s fine. Anything that get’s people exercising is great.
But the problem is, while they’re focusing on the 12 week challenges and crash diets, they’re neglecting a whole range of training methodologies and modalities that can have a powerful effect on improving health.
‘Health’ is the key word.
And that’s where long walks come in.
Now, for most people, walking isn’t an effective way to lose weight.
The intensity is low so there’s not a lot of energy expenditure. And walking doesn’t really tax the muscular system, so you don’t get a lot of strength benefit.
But health is more than burning energy and building muscles.
Sure, there are plenty of direct physical benefits of walking, even at a low intensity. But what about some of the hidden benefits.
These hidden benefits are less about what you’re doing, and more about where you’re doing it, and who you’re doing it with.
The best place to walk is in nature – near water or trees. The presence of greens and blues increases immune system function and physical activity while reducing the prevalence high blood pressure and depression.
Walking outdoors gives you exposure to the sun. When the sun hits your skin, it triggers the body’s production of vitamin D. The benefits of vitamin D are extensive, extending to bone mineral density, inflammation reduction, improved brain function, reducing the risk of some cancers, improved cardiovascular health and reduced rates of depression. And sunlight in your eyes early in the day can help to regulate consistent sleep/wake patterns.
Social interaction, and the formation of meaningful relationships plays a major role in your mental health. Catching up with friends over a long walk can give you many more benefits than just the physical exercise you’re doing.
The cyclical nature of walking is also one of the most effective types of movements to stimulate the release of endorphins, feel good chemicals that will not only improve mood and mental health, but will also help to reduce pain levels in the body.
Exercising outdoors increases the levels of serotonin and endorphins – improving mood, and helping you to link exercise with happiness, which will make you more likely to maintain your healthy exercise habit.
From a psychological point of view, if your pacing is correct, this session can be an effective method of entering a ‘flow state’, an optimal physical and mental zone which can help to maximise your performance.
Walking can also be a great time to catch up on a podcast or audiobook. Some time to yourself.
So let’s stop judging the effectiveness of exercise based purely on whether it will help you lose weight.
Go for a walk.