Why walking is great for your health and well-being

May is National Walking Month, encouraging us all to take a walk every day for our health and happiness. In this blog, our health advisor, Steven Meaden, gives you 10 reasons why walking rocks!

Benefits of walking

Whether you fancy a short amble or a longer ramble - walking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and the perfect way to explore new places.

We’re not necessarily talking hiking up mountains (unless that’s what you enjoy!) – but gentle, low-impact exercise that’s easy, free and available to everyone.

1. Walking strengthens your heart

Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by walking regularly. It’s great cardio exercise, lowering levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. The Stroke Association says that a brisk 30-minute walk every day helps to prevent and control the high blood pressure that causes strokes, reducing the risk by up to 27 percent.

2. Walking lowers disease risk

A regular walking habit slashes the risk of type 2 diabetes by around 60 percent, and you’re 20 percent less likely to develop cancer of the colon, breast or womb with an active hobby such as walking.

3. Walking helps you lose weight

You’ll burn around 75 calories simply by walking at 2mph for 30 minutes. Up your speed to 3mph and it’s 99 calories, while 4mph is 150 calories. Work that short walk into your daily routine and you’ll shed the pounds in no time.

4. Walking helps prevent dementia

Older people who walk six miles or more per week are more likely to avoid brain shrinkage and preserve memory as the years pass. Since dementia affects one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80, we reckon that’s a pretty great idea.

5. Walking tones up legs, bums and tums

Give definition to calves, quads and hamstrings while lifting your glutes (bum muscles) with a good, regular walk. Add hill walking into the mix and it’s even more effective. Pay attention to your posture and you’ll also tone your abs and waist.

6. Walking boosts vitamin D

We all need to get outside more. Many people in the UK are vitamin D deficient, affecting important things like bone health and our immune systems. Walking is the perfect way to enjoy the outdoors while getting your vitamin D fix.

7. Walking gives you energy

You’ll get more done with more energy, and a brisk walk is one of the best natural energisers around. It boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to every cell in your body, helping you to feel more alert and alive. Try walking on your lunch break to achieve more in the afternoon.

8. Walking makes you happy

It’s true – exercise boosts your mood. Studies show that a brisk walk is just as effective as antidepressants in mild to moderate cases of depression, releasing feel-good endorphins while reducing stress and anxiety. So for positive mental health, walking’s an absolute must.

9. Walking relieves work stress

Walking gives you time to think. Getting out of the stressful environment, breathing the air, and feeling your body move is natural stress-relief.  A walk in a park at lunchtime rather than walking the pavements will decrease anxiety and increase working memory performance.

10. Walkers live longer

A Study of 8000 people found that walking just two miles a day cut the risk of death almost in half.  The walkers' risk of death was especially lower from cancer.  Other studies have had similar findings - if you keep walking, you improve your chances of a longer and healthier life. 

Walking for 30 to 60 minutes each day is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and spirit, so try and fit walking in to your daily routine and leisure time – enjoy your local parks and green spaces, go for a walk at lunchtime, walk short journeys of up to two to three miles instead of jumping in the car, and visit some of the our most beautiful countryside.

Walk with us

Many of the woodlands and National Nature Reserves we manage welcome walkers. There are waymarked routes through these special places as well as facilities such as visitor centres and information panels to help you make the most of your visit.

Go to places to visit to plan your next walk using our interactive map.

Inspiration to get you out walking

If you’re looking for inspiration on where to go, then take a look at our handpicked favourites in our walks for spring colour.

If it's accessible routes you're after, suitable for wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs, go to our accessible visits web pages.

And if you fancy a longer hike why not check out the Wales Coast Path or try out one of Wales’s National Trails?

Before you head out, take a look at the Countryside Code and the Dog Walking Code – both are full of advice that’ll help you have an enjoyable and safe experience.

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