Walking is a fantastic form of exercise that comes with a variety of health benefits. Not only is walking good for your cardiovascular health, but research also shows it may even improve your sleep.
The American Heart Association recommends you get at least 150 minutes a week of exercise, which can be broken down into 30 minutes of movement at least five days a week. If you find that difficult to fit into your schedule, break those up into 10-minute chunks. Research shows it can be just as effective on your health as one longer workout.
Here, we’ll discuss the health benefits of walking on your sleep and overall health.
Benefits of walking for sleep and health
You don’t need to become a fitness guru in order to reap the benefits of exercise for your body. Taking a walk around your neighborhood or spending 30 minutes on a treadmill catching up on your favorite podcast is enough to help your body relax before bed and improve your overall health.
Walking can help:
Studies show endorphin levels rise an hour after exercise. Endorphins are hormones in your body that are released during “feel-good” activities, such as taking a walk in your neighborhood. This endorphin release can help you feel less stressed, leading to better sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says it doesn’t matter when you exercise, so if you need to take an evening walk to clear your mind before bed, it shouldn’t affect your bedtime.
Boost energy levels
Walking increases blood flow to your muscles, particularly the larger muscles in your legs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One 2017 study in the journal Physiology & Behavior found spending 10 minutes walking up and down stairs can be more energizing than drinking a half cup of coffee. So even if you can’t get outdoors, hit the stairs for a quick energy boost.
Improve your mood
One of the symptoms of depression is trouble sleeping, or insomnia, which can affect three out of four people who have depression. You can help fight feelings of anxiety or sadness by getting exercise such as a walk through the neighborhood. A 2023 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows walking can have a positive effect on the symptoms of depression.
Keep sickness away
Walking can also help you get sick less often by boosting your immune system. Research shows those who spend at least five days a week walking 20 minutes a day or more have 43% fewer days sick in bed than those who only hit the pavement one day a week or less.
Relieve joint pain
Help relieve any stiffness you feel in your knees, low back, and other joints in your body by getting out on a daily walk. Light exercise that includes walking has been shown to relieve pain and help your body move easier, according to one 2019 study.
How to add walking to your daily routine
Here are some pointers on how to get moving daily, so you can take advantage of the sleep and health benefits of walking every day.
- Wear comfortable shoes to prevent injury (and make your walk more pleasant).
- Start slow if you’re not used to daily walks.
- Dress in layers so you can remove clothing if you get too warm.
- Recruit a friend to join you for conversation or accountability.
- If listening to music while walking isn’t your thing, find a podcast or audiobook to listen to.
- Make sure you do some stretching before your walk to prevent soreness.
- Warm up your muscles by walking slowly for five to 10 minutes.
- Slow your walking for the last five to 10 minutes to cool your muscles down.
- Consider an exercise tracker or pedometer to keep track of your steps or distance. Some trackers will also monitor your heart rate and calories burned.
What are the best benefits of walking?
There’s been numerous research done on the health benefits of walking that have more to do with your health than just burning calories. Walking has been shown to increase energy levels, decrease stress and pain, and can boost your immune system and mood.
Does walking improve your sleep?
In a small 2019 study in the journal Sleep Health, researchers found that walking has a positive impact on your sleep. But walking can also help you sleep better by keeping your immune system healthy, fighting stress, and keeping your joints pain-free. By adding in a walking routine, you may find your sleep improving.
What type of exercise is best for sleep?
Cardio workouts—those that raise your heart rate and help your heart pump blood more effectively to the rest of the body—include running, swimming, and walking. These aerobic activities have been shown to be some of the best types of exercise you can do to prepare your body for a restful night’s sleep.
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