Some health experts have claimed that walking is actually the perfect form of exercise. These claims are based on a combination of factors; including the ease of access for participants and the actual effects that walking has on the human body.
An accessible pastime
One of the primary draws of walking for pleasure is that it is an incredibly accessible pastime. Other than supportive shoes, almost no specialist equipment is needed for people to start enjoying short distance walks. Those who are hoping to walk longer distances or do walking on higher ground may require special walking sandals, trainers or boots that are designed to offer additional ankle support.
No training is required to enjoy walking, because walking is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. In addition to this, potential walkers will not normally be expected to pay a fee to actually go walking. There are hundreds of thousands of areas in Britain where it is possible to walk without restriction, including; parks, footpaths, beaches and pavements near to your home.
Walking is also open to people of all ages, sexes and races, meaning that the whole family can go walking together if they want to.
Unlike some of the other physical activities that people can choose from, walking is a non-competitive pastime. This means that people can enjoy it without the need to be the best and without trying to be better than other people who you are spending time with.
Competitive sports can be off-putting to some people, because they are worried about coming last or being ridiculed by people who are more practiced than they are. The non-competitive nature of this pastime helps to make walking even more accessible for those who are trying the pastime for the very first time.
Walking can be a social activity if you want it to be. It is possible to join a walking or rambling group to meet new people, or you can go walking with existing friends or social contacts. Most people should be able to hold a conversation whilst walking, even if some steeper inclines do leave them feeling out of breath. There should also be plenty of things to talk about with your companions, because there are so many beautiful places to go walking in the United Kingdom.
Walking is a pastime which can be enjoyed by people with different ability levels. People who are new to walking for health reasons can start off slowly and gradually build up and up until they are able to complete longer, more vigorous walks and steeper inclines. Being able to gradually build up in this way is great for health. For this reason, doctors often suggest walking as a gateway exercise for patients who need to improve their fitness levels.
Once participants have started to build up their health levels through walking, they may then be able to move on to other exercises or sports that would not have been suitable for them in the first instance.
A recent study has shown that walking reduces the risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and diabetes as much as the risk is reduced in runners. The same study also found that a walker actually reduced their cholesterol level more than a runner would, if both parties covered the same distance.
Because walking raises the heart rate, it helps to strengthen the heart and improve circulation. Good circulation is vital for a healthy body, because the blood carries oxygen all around the body and transports some toxins away from areas where they have been created as waste products.
Walking is also considered to be a lower impact sport. Pursuits like running can put additional strain onto the bones and joints in the lower legs, because of the heavy impact when the foot meets the ground. These strains can accumulate over time and may actually lead to bone and joint problems in later life. The impact from walking is much lighter and more controlled, and therefore puts fewer stains onto the bones, joints, tendons and muscles in the legs and lower body.
Mental health benefits
Walking is also believed to offer mental health benefits, especially amongst older people. One study concluded that older people who walked more frequently had significantly better cognitive functions than those who did not walk regularly. The rate of cognitive decline also appeared to have been slowed in people who did walk.
Walking can also act as a natural anti-depressant. A study thst was published in 2012 found that walking for around 30 minutes a day on five different days each week would had a significant positive impact on people who were suffering from mild to medium depression.