Walking is one of the most underrated exercises – it can be done by almost anyone, anywhere and requires no equipment (you don’t need shoes to walk, but it sure does help). You can walk for as long or short as you like and more importantly it can have huge benefits to your health. With the modern-day lifestyles of sitting more, working longer hours and having higher levels of stress, a daily walk can help in so many ways, especially when outdoors amongst some fresh O2.

With the Oxfam 100km walk coming up at the end of March, let’s get stuck into the health benefits of walking.

  1. Vitamin D
    1. Vitamin D is both a vitamin and a hormone. 90% of vitamin D is made from sunlight exposure directly onto the skin and the other 10% comes from food sources such as egg yolks, milk and oily fish.
    2. One of the most important elements in our body, Vitamin D controls calcium levels within blood. Therefore, it is important for the production of strong bones, muscles and is important for overall health.
    3. Being physically active outdoors is an easy way to increase levels of vitamin D.
    4. However, spending too long in the sun can increase the risk of cancer, so remember to slip, slop, slap! (and repeat).
  2. Reduces risk of cancer
    1. Being physically inactive has been linked to a number of cancers including colorectal, post-menopausal breast cancers and endometrial, and likely a number of other cancers.
    2. Being physically inactive is directly linked to weight gain and obesity.
    3. Research suggests that being physically active for 30-60 minutes per day can help reduce the risk of some cancers.
  3. Helps in weight management
    1. Walking increases, although only slightly, our heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. In effect, this increases the energy expenditure of the body (typically measured in kilojoules or calories).
    2. An increase in energy burnt, contributes to ensuring that calories in vs. calories out is more balanced.
    3. However, it is important to remember that it is very difficult to out-exercise a poor diet.
  4. Improves heart health
    1. Walking is a form of cardiovascular exercise. It has been shown to reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity by increasing calorie expenditure and increasing the health of the heart and lungs.
    2. Just 30 minutes or more of walking daily can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by 35%, and risk of type 2 diabetes by 40%.
  5. Improves mood
    1. Different to the “runner’s high” of a large release of endorphins, walking has a slightly different way of working – it boosts feelings of well-being and vigour.
    2. It increases nerve cell growth especially in the area of the brain responsible for regulating mood and also increases blood and energy flow to the brain which assists in increasing mental acuity.
  6. Reduces stress
    1. Getting outside into a new and different environment can help to relax the mind. – it activates neurons which assist in relaxing the senses.
    2. Walking can also be a social environment with family and friends, providing an outlet and helping take your mind off things.
  7. Speeds up digestion
    1. Exercise, such as walking, can increase your heart rate which helps stimulate peristalsis – the intestinal contractions that move waste through the bowel.
    2. Walking also decreases blood sugar levels after meals – interestingly, this has the largest effect after eating dinner.
  8. Boosts immunity
    1. Exercise causes changes to occur in the body’s white blood cells and antibodies. These are the body’s disease fighting cells, so having more circulating through the blood may help to fight off infections.
    2. Being stressed and anxious also reduces the effectiveness of the immune response, so as walking reduces stress, it can boost our immunity.
  9. Boost energy levels and reduce fatigue
    1. Many studies have shown that sedentary people who complete a regular exercise program report improved fatigue and energy levels than those who don’t exercise.
    2. It is also proposed that increasing exercise levels can increase self-esteem and therefore can create a more optimistic and energetic mind-frame.
  10. Strengthens muscles and bones
    1. Regular weight bearing exercise plays a vital role in maintaining bone density – exercise doesn’t increase bone mass, but more importantly it prevents the loss of bone, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
    2. Exercise increases the capacity of our muscles – having to carry out weight whilst walking encourages our muscles to get stronger, happier and healthier.

Walking, however basic and easy it may be, has huge health benefits. When returning from injury it can be a great place to start.

The body loves movement. MOVEMENT=MEDICINE


Blisters are the number one reason Oxfam Trailwalkers don’t cross the finish line.


If you have signed up for the Oxfam walk, pop in and see one of our podiatrists to get some tips on preparing your feet to survive the 100km walk. Prevention is better than cure!