10 Mar 2022

The benefits of walking

The health benefits of walking might seem obvious, but for many of us, it’s hard to find time in the day for a leisurely stroll. But even if you can only commit to a short daily walk, this guide explores why walking is good for you, how to have a good walk, and some of the social benefits of walking.

Grandmother walking with grandchildren

You may also be interested in...

Walking for fitness purposes can mean anything from a short stroll in the park to an epic countryside ramble. But whether you live in a city, village or town, there are many good reasons to pull on those walking boots and get some fresh air in your lungs. We’ve summarised some of the pros of walking every day (or whenever you can).

Physical benefits of walking

Without question, walking is good for your physical health. One of the positive effects of walking daily is that it can strengthen your bones and keep them healthy. In fact, walking can be beneficial for people with osteoporosis, a health condition that weakens bones, and reduce the likelihood of the future fractures.

Moreover, walking every day can help you:

  • build leaner muscles and improve muscle endurance
  • increase your energy levels and lost body weight
  • stave off serious health challenges, such as cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes
  • sleep better, which has knock-on benefits for your physical health.

Mental health benefits of walking

While the benefits of walking for physical fitness are well known, in recent years there has been a greater level of awareness regarding the importance of walking for our mental health. Walking is associated with improved mood, reduced stress levels and provides a welcome respite when dealing with difficult life events.

The social benefits of walking can also enhance mental health and wellbeing, as you’ll have the opportunity to meet new people on your walkabouts. In fact, social engagement in general can improve our brain health and potentially reduce the speed of cognitive decline in later life.

Other benefits of walking

We’ve covered some of the benefits of short walks in terms of physical and mental heath, but what about some of the advantages that don’t seem so obvious? Here are some additional benefits of walking:

  • It’s stimulating. Writers, philosophers and thinkers – from Dickens to Darwin – have extolled the benefits of walking. In fact, a Stanford University study found that walking can boost creative output by 60%.
  • It’s simple. Walking can be as straightforward as a short stroll around the corner, so it doesn’t necessarily require the same time commitment as other forms of exercise.
  • It’s free. One of the advantages of walking is that unless you fancy a long countryside ramble in adverse weather, you don’t need to buy expensive equipment to experience the joys of a morning stroll.

Walking doesn’t have to be a strenuous activity. According to the NHS, “a brisk 10 minute daily walk has lots of health benefits”. The NHS also recommends that adults (aged 19 to 64) should participate in 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week. So even if you have a busy schedule, the advantages of walking in the morning, even for a short time, are clear.

How to have a good walk

There is more to a brisk walk than simply leaving your front door and stomping the streets. Here are some tips for enhancing your walking technique, and to reduce any impact on your joints.

  • Focus on posture. Keep your back straight, with your neck and shoulders relaxed, to ensure your muscles don't stiffen.
  • Keep your head up. You should ideally look forward, rather than at the ground, so that you can stride purposefully and feel the benefits of walking.
  • Step carefully. For a smooth walk, step from heel to toe and allow your arms to swing naturally.
Mature couple hugging on the beach

Walking resources

Ready to pull on your walking boots and embrace the outdoors? Here are some resources to help you plan your next walkabout.

  • Ramblers. The association that has promoted walking in the UK since 1935.
  • Meetup. A service that enables people (including walking groups) to meet and explore similar interests.
  • Age UK Find out your nearest Age UK walking groups and other exercise activities.

Find out more about Over 50 Life Insurance

More articles and guides