Take a walk

Walking is an unexpected form of effective exercise that comes with copious mental and physical health benefits.

Original art by Sarabeth Wester shows the positive effects walking can have as a form of exercise.

Sarabeth Wester

Original art by Sarabeth Wester shows the positive effects walking can have as a form of exercise.

Ansley Morris, Associate Editor

When you first think about exercise, your mind probably goes straight to running on a treadmill, strength training, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) cardio, or any other form of extreme fitness. But, what if exercise didn’t have to be that intense? What if one of the best forms of exercise was just taking a walk?

This thought is more than just a what-if; walking is proven to be one of the best forms of exercise as it benefits both your mental and physical health without having to drown in a pool of your own sweat afterward.

The appeal of high-intensity workouts is that they raise your heart rate, thus allegedly burn more calories, in a shorter amount of time. But, believe it or not, not everyone wants to put so much stress on their body, and some may not have the motivation to put that much energy into a workout on a regular basis. This is where the benefits of forms of LISS (low-intensity steady state) cardio, such as walking, come in.

LISS cardio still elevates your heart rate but does so in a way that keeps it more sustainable over a longer period of time. You may break a little sweat, but nothing in comparison to 20-30 minutes of a HIIT circuit.

Any form of cardio is good for not only your cardiovascular health, but also for other physical factors such as increased blood flow, strengthening bones and joints, more energy to last throughout the day, and many other examples. And while we know these physical benefits to be true, the idea that they are only attainable through sprints or HIIT circuits is merely a misconception. All of them can be easily acquired through different forms of LISS cardio such as walking, yoga, or using a stationary bike at a slower speed.

On top of it being a more low-key form of exercise, taking walks also gives you the added benefits of being able to socialize with others, whether you go on a walk with a friend or just run into some neighbors outside. Walking outside also allows you to spend more time in nature, which is proven to have several cognitive benefits.

Regardless of what kind of workout you do, your serotonin levels will be boosted during exercise, resulting in a happier, less stressed emotional state due to the release of endorphins. So the next time you’re having a rough couple of days, maybe take some time to think about just how much movement you’re working into your day. One of the easiest ways to do this is by keeping track of your daily step count in your health app that almost any smartphone or smartwatch has nowadays.

High-intensity cardio, strength training, or athletic training isn’t meant for everyone, but it is still important that you’re making sure you’re getting enough movement for both your physical and mental health. Walking allows you to get in your daily movement, take some time to listen to one of your favorite podcasts or music, get outside for a bit, and overall, get the same physical and mental benefits you’d get from other forms of working out.