Japan has one of the lowest rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases in the world. Yet, an average Japanese person doesn’t usually go to the gym and work out for hours on end.
So what makes them one of the healthiest people on our planet?
That’s a simple question to answer. It’s walking.
Japan has a culture of walking – by western standards, relatively few residents own cars, and many of them use public transportation. Japanese adults record an average of 6,500 steps a day.
We don’t need to move to Japan to live a healthier lifestyle and enjoy the benefits of walking, however, we can heed what they do.
We can easily incorporate walking into our lifestyles. We were taught how to walk as a child, so it’s not something we have to learn!
How Walking Benefits Your Health
Many people dismiss walking as being an easy excuse for exercising. But there are several benefits of walking, most of which are actually the same benefits we get from high-impact workouts and activities.
Walking can certainly be considered to be exercise, as long as it is done consistently.
Walking Physical Benefits
Like the more strenuous physical activities, walking is also a great way to strengthen our heart and lungs. The increase in cardio fitness can lower high blood pressure and cholesterol, leading to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
Walking can also help in weight management and blood sugar control, which are both critical factors in preventing and managing diabetes.
The increase in mobility also helps strengthen bones, increase muscle strength and endurance, and improve balance.
Walking For Mental Health Benefits
Aside from our physical well-being, our brains and mental health are also improved just by walking, and for most of us, the mental effects of walking are actually more immediate than the physical gains.
Walking is an effective mood booster. One study found that just 12 minutes of walking can increase a person’s vigor, self-confidence, focus, and positivity, compared to the time spent sitting.
Taking a walk in nature is also a proven way to reduce unhelpful ruminating over negative emotions and experiences, leading to a lowered risk of depression.
Another study found that a 10-minute walk outdoors can be as effective as a 45-minute workout in relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. Creativity also gets a boost from walking.
It has been stated that creativity is a way of divergent thinking, which is a thought process that explores many possible solutions to generate creative ideas. Therefore, walking can make us creative by helping our brains open the free flow of ideas.
Walking can also help improve memory and prevent brain tissue deterioration which is crucial in keeping our brains healthy as we age.
How Walking Is Good For Weight Loss
Many people have written off walking as an effective way to lose weight. But consistent walking can help you burn fat and shed some pounds. Aiming for the right heart rate zone is the key to losing weight by walking.
Is 30 minutes of walking a day enough to lose weight?
The participants of the study gradually increased the duration of their walks to reach one hour per session. However, weight loss only came in once they reached at least 30 minutes of walking daily. This result showed that weight loss is directly correlated with the duration of the walk.
Another study compared obese women who walked with women who didn’t do any brisk walking at all. The women who walked three times a week for 50 to 70 minutes lost an average of six pounds compared to women who didn’t walk and did not lose any weight.
Similar to any kind of weight-loss program, our diet should complement consistent brisk walking for us to see results. Walking can be more effective when paired with a calorie-restricted diet.
Is walking enough to lose weight?
Studies show that restricting our calorie intake by at least 500 calories a day and walking for 4 hours per week at a brisk pace is much more effective for losing weight than merely lowering the number of calories we take in.
How To Start Walking More
Gradually Increase Walking Speed And Duration
If you are new to exercising or have problems with your knees, back, or joints, then walking is one of your best options for a workout. But if you are aiming to lose weight, you need to keep your heart rate up to burn calories, and we can do that by increasing the speed and duration of our walks.
How To Incorporate Walking Into Your Day
Walking is one of the most convenient ways to stay active. It is easy to incorporate walking into our everyday routine just by making some minor changes.
You can make a habit of going on a short brisk walk during your lunch break or walking around the block after dinner as a way to cap off your day. Having a dog also makes it easier to make walking a habit.
When at work, you can have a walking meeting with a colleague. Taking the stairs, if possible, is also an easy way to incorporate walking into your lifestyle.
You can also park your car further away than your usual spot, or when taking a bus, you may want to get off the bus a few stops before so you can have more opportunities to walk.
Pedometer or Fitness Tracker
The average person walks around 3,000 steps per day. But if you aim to lose weight, increasing your daily steps is an effective way to reach your goal. Experts recommend taking 10,000 steps a day to force your body to use stored fat for fuel.
Doing more will give even better results, but this should be done gradually. If you are unfit and attempt too much too soon you may cause discomfort to a degree that will cause you to avoid walking for a while, and you will be back where you started.
Also, if you are working or have other commitments, it can be difficult to make the time for more extended walks. 10,000 steps has been touted as an achievable and effective goal for most people.
To help you get to that goal, using a fitness tracker will definitely help. A fitness tracker watch, app, or pedometer is an efficient way to track the number of steps you’ve been taking in a day.
These tools make us more accountable as they provide a visual representation of the number of steps we’ve taken. Seeing the number of steps you have taken so far motivates you to move more and complete the goal.
Incorporate Intervals Into Your Daily Walking Routine
Incorporating intervals in your brisk walking routine can help you burn more calories by keeping your heart rate up throughout the session. Start your power walking session at a slow pace for about five to ten minutes to warm up.
Afterward, increase the speed for the next ten to fifteen minutes, but make sure that your pace is still sustainable for you to complete the whole session.
You can then go back to a slower pace for another five to ten minutes before switching back to your faster pace. Do this for the rest of your session, or as long as you can manage it.
Do Short Walks Every Day
If brisk walking for an hour is something you don’t have the time to do, you may divide it into two or three shorter walk sessions. Sticking to a more realistic routine and accommodating to your schedule makes it more likely to happen than forcing you to squeeze in a long exercise session within the day.
Doctors also recommend taking a leisurely walk for at least 15 minutes after each meal. One study showed that walking for 15 minutes, three times a day helped regulate blood sugar levels even better than a single, more extended walking session.
Never underestimate the challenge of walking uphill. If you’re aiming to shed some pounds, walking uphill is an efficient way to increase calorie burn. Walk up hills or go for a short hike if possible two to three times a week.
For those who are using a treadmill, increase the treadmill gradient to an incline that is challenging yet still sustainable for you. No treadmill or access to nature? No problem – the stairs are also as effective and challenging.
How To Use Weights While Walking
Another way to increase your calorie burn while walking is to use weights.
According to one study, people who walked for 2.5 miles per hour while wearing a weighted vest that is 15% of their total body weight burned 12% more calories than participants who did not wear a vest.
If you want to incorporate weights into your brisk walking session, use a weighted vest instead of ankle weights, wrist weights, or carrying dumbells, as these may cause imbalances in your posture and even lead to injuries.
For people who are new to exercising or using weights, speak to your doctor first before adding weight to ensure that you are fit enough for the additional physical demand it will require.
Benefits Of Walks
Walking is often overlooked and considered to be an “easy excuse” for exercising. But if done with consistency, walking is a great way to get fit since it is relatively easy to incorporate it into our daily routine.
For many people, walking is also a more suited workout than running or more strenuous exercises. Aside from weight loss benefits, walking is also beneficial to our mental health.
Walking, especially when done outdoors, improves mood, memory, focus, and even creativity.
Like most kinds of workouts, walking is more effective when paired with a low-calorie diet. You can also use tools such as a fitness tracker and a weighted vest to make your walking routine more effective.
With its several benefits and advantages, walking is one of the most effective and convenient ways to a healthier lifestyle.