The Surprising Physical and Mental Benefits of Walking

There’s an easy way to manage your weight, help reduce your risk of heart disease, banish stress, and improve your outlook. Oh, and it’s free. All you have to do is lace up your sneakers and head outside. 

That’s right – walking, and especially walking outdoors, comes with a plethora of mental and physical health benefits. Learn more about them and get tips for rediscovering this enjoyable habit below.

Physical Health Benefits of Walking

First up, the most immediate health benefit of going for a walk is the cardiovascular exercise it provides. Brisk walking gets your heart rate up and helps burn more calories. A “brisk” walking pace is generally considered taking 120 steps or more per minute.

And following up on that calorie burn: You use more energy than you might expect while walking. A 140-pound person, for example, will burn about 90 calories per mile.

Another perk of walking compared to other forms of cardio is that it’s low-impact – easier on your joints and ligaments. For instance, running is a high-impact activity with a lot of pounding on the pavement. But when you’re walking, you have one foot on the ground at all times, and that minimizes the impact. 

Finally, don’t overlook these other health benefits that can come with a regular walking routine:

  • Reduced risk for dementia
  • Less stiffness and inflammation
  • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure

Related: Staying young at heart as we age >>

Mental Health Benefits of Walking

Taking a walk does more than keep you physically healthy. It’s good for your brain because, as an aerobic exercise, it helps circulate more blood to your brain and throughout your body. 

Taking a walk can help improve your mood by:

  • Reducing feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.
  • Helping you become more self-confident.
  • Making you feel more energetic.
  • Allowing you to get better-quality sleep

You might be interested to know therapists often recommend that their patients begin a fitness routine to help ward off mental illness and improve their overall mood. Even if you don’t have a diagnosed mental health condition, you can still reap the benefits of a sunnier outlook from exercise. 

Walking Outside at Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve

While you can still get plenty of health benefits from walking indoors on a treadmill or fitness center track, you’ll likely enjoy walks outdoors even more. Going outside comes with another set of health benefits you’ll enjoy – like getting your daily dose of Vitamin D. 

Getting outside is good for people of all ages. At Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve, located adjacent to Residences at Coffee Creek in Chesterton, residents are enjoying the relationship between the two organizations.

Whether on casual hikes or while visiting the preserve as part of Residences’ Coffee and a Concert series, the residents get to enjoy the sights of the 157 acre-park and the 436 native plant species that call it home.

“It’s a great way for them to stay connected and engaged,” said Katie Rizer, executive director of the preserve. “And that connection to nature is good for a million reasons.” 

One unique aspect of the preserve is the sparkling-clear Coffee Creek (so named because a bag of coffee beans fell off the wagon of a passing settler and into the water, according to Rizer). That makes it possible for residents and other visitors to watch large fish, like salmon, spawn on their way to Lake Michigan.

Future plans for the partnership between the preserve and Residences at Coffee Creek include a volunteer program where residents can assist in collecting native prairie seeds.

Rizer said the goal is to provide benefits for both parties and to help the residents stay active in the community. 

“We’re planning a future for our neighbors. We’re glad they’re there,” she said.

See upcoming Coffee and a Concert dates >>

Tips to Jumpstart Your Walking Habit

Ready to start a walking routine after reading about the health benefits? Walking is one of the simplest activities to start doing – you just need a good pair of shoes and a place to do it.

If you haven’t exercised in a while, don’t be afraid to take it slow. And if you’re wondering if you’re “too old” to start enjoying the good that comes from walking – you aren’t! Physical fitness is important at any age, and no matter when you start, you’ll be doing something healthy for yourself.

The current physical activity guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advise getting 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. If you have an illness or injury that keeps you from getting that much exercise, try to work in as much as you can – you’ll still see benefits.

Keep these other tips in mind as you begin your walking regimen.

  • Going for a walk doesn’t have to be an isolated activity. Try walking to the grocery store or post office instead of driving. You’ll cross something off your to-do list while getting exercise.
  • Bring a friend or find a group to join. The more enjoyable you find walking, the more likely you are to stick with it – and you’ll have someone to be accountable to.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t walk in unfamiliar areas, especially alone or after dark.
  • Wear proper gear depending on the weather. That includes adding sunscreen and dressing in layers when it’s cold. 

Learn More About Assisted Living in Northwest Indiana

Residences at Coffee Creek in Chesterton, Indiana, is a brand-new senior living community offering independent living with assistance. 

Besides being located right next to the beautiful Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve, it offers an aging-in-place concept, with memory care, rehabilitation and therapy, and more all under one roof. 

If Residences at Coffee Creek sounds like it could be right for you or your loved one, why not request more information? There’s no obligation – we love helping prospective residents learn more about our community.