Adding walking to your routine improves your physical and mental health, experts say. Regular walking supports a healthy immune system, boosts your metabolism and strengthens your joints, muscles and bones. It also helps relieve stress.
Daily walking increases metabolism by burning extra calories and preventing muscle loss, which is particularly important as we age. You may even notice your pants start to loosen around your midsection, even if the number on the scale isn’t moving much. That’s because regular walking can help reduce abdominal fat and, as a result, improve your body’s response to insulin.
Experts recommend walking at least 30 minutes daily for the greatest benefits. Here are a couple of ways to get the most out of it:
Mix in intervals. Intervals, defined as short spurts with a quicker pace or going up hills, are key in getting the most out of walking. Increasing your speed for small segments of time during a 30-minute walk allows you to burn more calories than if you strolled at a moderate pace the whole time. It also benefits your cardiorespiratory system.
Try warming up with an easy walk for three minutes. Then spend 25 minutes alternating between one minute of walking at a moderate pace and one minute of brisk walking. Cool down with an easy walk for two minutes.
Explore nature. Taking walks outdoors has several benefits, too. Exposure to the sun’s natural vitamin D helps protect the brain’s neurons and reduces inflammation. Breathing natural air, rather than recycled air indoors, improves brain function. And the stimulation caused by the activity and nature produce endorphins that regulate your mood.
Walk 100 miles, a step at a time
The American Legion’s third annual 100 Miles for Hope challenge is underway. Walking just 30 minutes a day is one way to complete the mileage part of the challenge. For details and registration, visit www.legion.org/100miles.
Army veteran Jennifer Campbell is a certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in nutrition education. She is commander of the California American Legion’s 24th District.