Walking is a form of exercise that is low-impact. It can be practiced by athletes and people of all ages.
Benefits of Walking
Walking is a simple form of exercise that doesn’t necessarily require a lot of special equipment. It strengthens the bones, improves the mood, may help in weight maintenance, and it can also improve coordination and balance. For people with heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, repeatedly putting one foot ahead of the other can help to manage or prevent these systemic conditions.1 This form of exercise can help people avoid osteoporosis by strengthening the bones and muscles. Moderate exercise can improve health and reduce stress, even when heredity plays a role in risk factors for diseases. Just 30 minutes of aerobic physical activity (i.e., walking, biking, etc.) for most of the days of the week may have health benefits. Even when a half hour of exercise time is not able to be accomplished all at once, intermittent activity also can be useful.2
Proper Walking Form
It is important to walk with proper form. The head should be looking forward, not down. The neck, back, and shoulders should be relaxed, with the arms swinging freely (and slightly bent). The back needs to be straight, and the stomach muscles should be tightened. Rolling the foot from heel to toe allows for smooth walking. As with all exercise, it is important to warm up with stretches and cool down. Shoes should have proper support in the arches, with soles that can “absorb shock”. When walking outside, the terrain should be even, without potholes or cracks.3 Some people may wish to walk barefoot. In that case, it is necessary to land on the heel softly, and roll through the outer part of the foot to the ball of the foot, and then push off with the toes. Barefoot hikers do a form of this called “fox-walking”, which looks a bit like walking on tip-toes. There are barefoot types of shoes, which will also naturally adjust the stride to a mid-foot strike (to avoid a painful heel-strike).4
Depending on geography, weather, or scheduling, a treadmill may be the best option for some people to do their regular walking. Choosing a treadmill depends on a lot of factors, including cost, noise, space requirements, whether or not running or incline is important, and how often it will be used.5 Some treadmills for the home are commercial-grade. There are even treadmills that combine stair stepping with walking. Some people may wish to have a treadmill desk for work. The benefits of a treadmill include a stable walking area, climate control, feedback (i.e., calories burned and distance walked), the ability to walk while watching TV, reading, or listening to a podcast, variety (i.e., incline, speed), and safety.6