Walking is growing in popularity, according to Strava’s 2021 Year in Sport report that showed that the activity was twice as popular as it had been the year prior. The report showed that walking increased among all age groups, genders, and regions.
It’s one of the easiest and most accessible ways to maintain health and fitness. A regular walking routine can help keep weight off, prolong life, prevent diseases, and strengthen muscles, bones, and joints.
To reap the full cardio and physical health benefits, aim for 15 hours per week, which calculates to 20 minutes per day or 30 minutes, five days per week at moderate intensity. To determine if the intensity is high enough, use the talk test–you should be able to carry on a conversation, but singing would be a challenge.
The low impact activity has a relatively low barrier to entry, requires limited equipment, and is great for people just getting into a fitness routine. Barriers to entry include lack of access to safe sidewalks, green spaces, and safe neighborhoods. If you’re walking in low light or at night, be sure to wear reflective gear and a headlamp so that others can see you easily.
Walking can help extend your life, according to a 11-year study conducted by the JAMA Network Open in 2021. The team followed 2,100 Black and white middle-aged adults who hit at least 7,000 steps per day and determined that they had a 50 to 70 percent lower risk of dying for any reason compared to those who took fewer than 7,000 steps per day.
Mental Health Benefits
Numerous studies show that even a short five to 10 minute walk can provide [mental health benefits], which are great for mid-day work breaks. A short jaunt can boost your mood, especially if you walk through nature.
Building a regular exercise habit can be a great addition to a comprehensive treatment plan for those with depression or anxiety. Getting outdoors for a walk can be especially helpful for season depression because the daylight is a natural mood booster.
If you find a walking buddy, then socialization adds to the mental health benefits because it makes you feel connected and happier.
Lowers the Risk of Cancer and other Diseases
An American Cancer Society study showed that women who walk seven or more hours per week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walk three or fewer hours weekly. It also helps reduce fatigue during cancer treatment.
The American Institute for Cancer suggests 30 minutes of brisk walks at least five days per week to reduce the risk of cancer. Diabetes patients can maintain better blood sugar control by taking a walk after eating.
Eases Joint Pain
Regular exercise, including walking, strengthens the muscles around joints and maintains bone strength. Weak muscles put more strain on the joints, which can lead to arthritis, osteoporosis, and lack of mobility.
A 2019 study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that just one hour of moderate to vigorous walking per week helped delay disability for over four years in adults who already had lower extremity joint pain.
Great for Active Recovery
If running or another high intensity sport is your main way of getting exercise, getting a walk in the day after harder runs can help serve as low impact active recovery. The movement helps stimulate blood flow to sore and tired muscles.
Rest is an important piece in any training plan, and walking is a great way to get some movement in, even on a rest day.
Wearing the Right Shoes for Walking
At Lems, we believe that shoes should mirror the foot’s natural shape and have a wide enough toe box that can fully accommodate the toes, allowing them to splay. Minimal or zero-drop shoes like those we design promote better posture, a more natural forefoot strike, and allow for better response to the ground.
If you’re planning to start a walking routine or are in search of a good shoe that will support your current regime, here are a few from our line up that we recommend:
Primal 2 - This ultralight zero-drop shoe will make you feel like you’re not wearing shoes at all, yet offer the support and comfort you need as you rack in the miles.
Primal Zen - Similar to the Primal 2, the Zen has some added cushion and a grounded base that provides a bit of additional protection.
Mesa - With a knit material designed for optimal flexibility and airflow, the Mesa is an ideal shoe for wet weather or hot days. The full rubber outsole is made to hit your daily steps and beyond.