Walking is one of the simplest activities and greatest gifts you can give yourself. Just think about it: You don’t need any gym equipment in order to do it, it’s something you can easily fit into your schedule, you can walk alone or with friends, and you can go at your own pace. The best part? Taking some healthy strides gives you the opportunity to check out new neighborhoods within and outside of your community. Besides, getting in regular cardio is a great way to maintain a consistent routine, and the benefits that walking every day does to your body are simply endless.
Eat This, Not That! reached out to Dr. Mike Bohl, the Director of Medical Content & Education at Ro and a certified personal trainer, to discuss why it’s so healthy to get in steps every day. He explains, “Walking is good aerobic exercise (which is good for cardiovascular health), it can help maintain muscle mass and bone mineral density in your legs and core (which reduces the risk of injury), it burns calories (which helps maintain a healthy body weight), it can help with balance (which becomes increasingly more important to work on as you age), and it’s a good time to also focus on things like your posture.”
Related: The Top 5 Walking Habits That Slow Aging, Fitness Expert Reveals
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults perform aerobic exercise for 150 minutes each week at a moderately intense level, and a brisk daily walk definitely fits the bill. By walking briskly for one hour, you can typically torch anywhere from 240 to 723 calories, according to Livestrong. So if you walk for 2 ½ hours each week, the calorie burn will definitely add up!
Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Work Out 7 Days a Week
The only negative thing to be aware of when walking daily is to be mindful of your own personal fitness and health boundaries. For instance, Dr. Bohl points out, “If you tend to drag your feet, walk somewhere that has a smooth surface (like a paved road). If you have trouble with balance, use an assistive device or walk with a friend who is able to help steady you. If you have a chronic disease that causes pain, such as arthritis, make sure you aren’t pushing yourself past your limits.”
Other than these types of limitations, getting in some healthy cardio around your block, on a walking trail, or wherever you prefer is so easy—and fun—to do. It’s also so convenient to sneak in extra steps while doing errands. Park at the far end of the parking lot or opt for the steps. However, when planning to get in your walk and steps, Dr. Bohl points out, “One last thing to keep in mind is to use comfortable walking shoes to make sure you aren’t walking long distances with an abnormal posture or getting blisters on your feet.”
There are additional steps (pun intended) you can take to raise the bar on your walks. First off, you can weave in some intervals to your stride, which would involve speeding up your pace to go faster, then bring it down to the speed you normally achieve. Dr. Bohl says, “Varying your pace can make the walk more interesting and can also help you burn more calories.”
You can also make your walk more effective by choosing an area that has hills so you aren’t limiting your exercise to a flat course. Dr. Bohl suggests, “Spend some of the walk going uphill and some of the walk going downhill.”
Be sure to include stairs whenever possible, as it’s an excellent workout to give your glutes, calves, quadriceps, and hamstrings. And lastly, a sneaky way to torch some extra calories during each step is by swinging both arms back and forth in an exaggerated fashion. Hey, you’re walking anyway, so you might as well take your fitness to the max in the time you are spending!