The mental and physical health benefits of walking for just 30 minutes a day

We are firmly in the grips of the UK’s second coronavirus lockdown, and it’s safe to say we’re starting to get a bit bored.

The newest set of restrictions have shut down our social lives as well as non-essential businesses like gyms. As a result, there is less to keep us occupied during these colder autumn months. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t exercise or get a serotonin boost when you need it, though. In fact, one of the most effective ways you can keep yourself going (both physically and mentally) is really easy: it’s walking. 

While it may seem a little too good to be true, walking has a great many health benefits that can keep you in tip-top shape, and help you to overcome boredom and even low mood. 

Walking for just half an hour five days a week is also enough for you to meet your weekly recommended exercise goals. According to the NHS, adults should aim to do ‘at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week’, and walking counts.

What’s more, it’s also ‘an easy, low impact activity that’s accessible to almost everyone,’ as Tompion Platt, the Director of Advocacy and Engagement for the walking charity the Ramblers explains.  

He goes on to say that ‘no matter your level of fitness, walking is a great way to start getting fitter, whether it’s a quick stroll in your local park or a ten-mile countryside hill walk.’

As the charity found when it pulled together the facts and figures on just how good walking can be for you, ‘walking regularly at any speed’ can do great things for your physical health, including everything from improving your flexibility, boosting your immune system, and reducing your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. 

In fact, their research has found that ‘active people have 40-50% lower risk of developing colon cancer than inactive people, and lower risks of developing breast and lung cancer.’

And, if you want to take the benefits even further, you can try walking at a brisk pace.

Walking at a brisk pace means that ‘you should be breathing a little faster, feeling a little warmer and can feel your heart beating a little fast,’ and the research indicates that this does great things for your heart, lungs and blood pressure. 

The health benefits of walking

  • Improves circulation. Walking wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and can even strengthen the heart.
  • Boosts your mood.
  • Can help you lose weight.
  • Strengthens muscles.
  • Improves your sleep.
  • Supports and strengthens your joints.

If that wasn’t enough to get you walking, Tompion tells us that there are whole range of mental health benefits, too, especially for those who like to walk in green space. 

‘There is ever-increasing evidence that spending time outdoors and in contact with the natural environment can have a positive effect on mental health and be a good way to reduce stress, depression and fatigue.’

In fact, a survey conducted by the Ramblers and YouGov found that 89.9% of all respondents ‘agreed that walking in nature or green spaces helps them to unwind and relax.’ 

However, it doesn’t really matter if you have no easily accessible green space to go for a walk in, because you are likely to feel the benefits regardless.  

According to the mental health charity Mind, physical activity like walking can help to you to improve everything from your sleep to your mood, manage stress, anxiety and intrusive thoughts, better self-esteem, and reduce your risk of depression. 

With everything going on at the moment, such an easy mood-booster could be the ideal way to get you through your locked down days. 

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