Walking to better health

Step right up – it’s time to get walking on a regular basis to improve your health and wellbeing. Not only is walking ideal for all ages and fitness levels, it’s free to do. Healthify | He Puna Waiora has plenty of useful information to get you moving.

Walking is something you can do whenever you want. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money – all you need is a supportive pair of shoes.

Making walking part of your regular routine helps reduce the risk of:

  • obesity
  • type 2 diabetes
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • certain cancers.

It also improves your:

  • heart rate and circulation
  • muscle strength
  • bone strength, which decreases your risk of osteoporosis
  • balance, which reduces the risk and severity of falls
  • use of energy, which helps you maintain a healthy weight
  • overall health and wellbeing
  • self-esteem
  • stress levels.

Walking at a brisk pace for 10 minutes or more brings more health benefits. You can warm up and cool down by walking slowly at the beginning and end of your walk.


While you’re getting going, bear these things in mind:

Start off slowly
If you’re starting out, walk slowly and just for a short distance (even if it’s just around the block) then gradually build it up. You can make it more challenging over time by increasing the distance you walk, the intensity (eg, up hills) and the number of times you do it each week.

Change it up
To avoid getting bored, try taking a different route around your neighbourhood or walking in different places such as the beach, a park or on a walking track. It’s cool to know you can walk round your local community or head to a beach or park or wherever takes your fancy.

Don’t let the weather put you off!
Walking is one of the easiest activities to do all year round. With a warm, rainproof coat (one that keeps you visible) and sturdy shoes, you can still reap the benefits of fresh air and witness the changing seasons. If you’re feeling cold, physical activity increases your blood flow and helps you to feel warmer – plus there’s the promise of a warming hot drink at the end of your walk.

Think about your safety
When you go out for a walk, make sure you stay in a safe, well-lit area. Walking with a friend or whānau member can also make you feel safer as you’re not alone. If you are walking beside a busy road or early morning or evening it might pay to wear some high visibility clothing or something reflective. You might see cars coming, but can they see you? Clip on LED reflective badges for hats, waistbands and shoes are available, and you can get reflective tape to add to shoes or clothing, so it doesn’t have to cost a lot to make yourself more visible.

Be patient
You may not notice any benefits straight away from becoming a regular walker, but don’t give up! It can take up to 6 weeks to feel the health benefits. Just know you are doing your body (and mind) a world of good.

Aotearoa New Zealand is full of great places to walk – both short and long walks. Visit your local council website for ideas on where to walk in your area.

Also, check out Green Prescription, a free health and wellness support service to help you and your whānau improve health and wellbeing. The service includes support for getting more active.

Please visit a healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about increasing your exercise levels or starting a new fitness programme.

CREDIT: Find more information about the benefits of walking at Healthify | He Puna Waiora.