What are the health benefits of walking?

Whatever the speed or distance, walking for just ten minutes in the park each day can massively improve anyone's fitness levels.

MoonWalk Scotland 2019. Picture: Scott Louden

Walking is the most accessible exercise and many people walk miles in their day-to-day lives without even realising it.

For those who are new to walking outdoors or who have chosen to increase their speed or amount of time they dedicate to doing so, the first thing they will notice is how many calories walking at a decent pace can burn.

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Tests have shown that people who walk four times a week for 45 minutes at a pace that increases their heart rate, they could lose up to 18lb without changing their diet.

Power walking is walking with a speed at the upper end of the natural range for walking and is usually around 4 to 5.5. miles per hour.

A person with a weight of 9 stone can burn around 120 calories in just half an hour when walking at 3.5mph. At 4.5mph, 180 calories can be burned.

Over the duration of a marathon, that equates to up to and impressive 2,096 calories – more than the 2,000 daily calorie intake recommended by the NHS for women and a good chunk of the 2,500 recommended for men.

But regardless of the pace, walking is a fantastic way to increase strength throughout the body – and the more it is done the stronger the muscles become. Muscle tone will be clearer within just a few weeks.

As the days become longer, walking in Scotland's gorgeous scenery is an instant stress relief after a long day at the office and releases mood-boosting endorphins.

Once the endorphins are released, they can create a calmer state of mind, reducing the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.

Therefore during stressful workdays, for example, a lunchtime walk of just 15 minutes can be very beneficial.

Walking is also known to boost the immune system and scientific studies have shown that increased physical activity can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

In fact, after giving up smoking, scientists have claimed that maintaining a healthy weight is the next best thing to prevent cancer.

And walking has a considerable impact on women's health.

While exercise may seem like the last thing on anyone's mind who is suffering from Premenstrual Syndrome, it is one of the best ways to reduce symptoms including bloating and fluid retention. The endorphins will also reduce negative symptoms.

Women who are going through the menopause and to aerobic exercise three to four times a week report fewer hot flushes and say it improves their quality of life, both physically and mentally.

A gym membership may seem a costly way to start upping the exercise, but one of the positives that come with walking is that it is free to do and can be done anywhere.

Organising a stroll in the park or walk in the countryside is an excellent way to have a catch up with friends and family or to have a bit of time to yourself to unwind.

To keep motivated, sign up to one of the many walking challenges across Scotland throughout the year.

The MoonWalk Scotland, organised by Walk the Walk, runs on Saturday, 6 June, and commences at Holyrood Park in the Capital and the money raised will go towards helping to combat breast cancer.

There are four challenges available on the night – the New Moon for ages 10 and up (10k), Half Moon (13.1), Full Moon (26.2), and Over the Moon Ultra (52.4 miles) – meaning there is no excuse not to put on your walking shoes.

To find out more and to sign up, visit the Walk the Walk website here.