May is National Walking month, so it seems a great time to highlight its benefits. I love walking and it is something I have done daily for years, largely thanks to my dogs. Walking is free, accessible to most people and a gentle way to add exercise to every day life. With proven benefits to both physical and mental health, lets explore 5 benefits of walking.

1. Walking to balance your blood sugar

During the menopausal years, many women become more insulin resistant. This means their blood sugar can become dysregulated and there is an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Whilst dietary changes and reducing stress can help, walking has also been shown to help balance blood sugar.

The great news is, it doesn’t need to be long vigorous walks, simply by getting up and moving more and reducing your time seated has benefits to blood sugar. I recommend clients to get up from their desk every hour. This not only helps with aches and pains, but has a beneficial effect on body composition and can improve blood sugar balance.

Aiming to walk for at least 30 minutes a day, seems to be a great way to help balance your blood sugar.

2. Walking helps your bones.

During the menopause lowering oestrogen means that bone breakdown increases more rapidly than bone build up, resulting in lower bone density. This can lead to osteoporosis. But great news, walking can help this!

Muscle building exercises, stopping smoking and dietary changes (think eating the Mediterranean way) can be useful for reducing the risk of osteoporosis. However, walking regularly has been shown to help maintain bone density. You could even give Nordic walking a go. The use of walking poles utilises the muscles of the upper body, which may be more effective for maintaning upper body bone density and increasing muscle mass.

3. Walking can improve mental health.

Walking has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and can help people cope with difficult times. If you walk in nature the benefits increase, with an increased life satisfaction and decrease in mental health problems being reported.

4. Walking can improve your heart health

A brisk walk or an uphill walk will increase your heart rate, helping improve cardiovascular fitness and keep your heart healthy. With the menopause bringing an increased risk of heart disease in women, this is a great way to counteract this.

5. Walking can help improve body composition

It is very common for women to gain weight during the menopause. Or for their body composition to change (hello belly!). Walking can help improve this. There are walking programmes available online or just start walking regularly. Walking at a brisk pace and incorporating hills will be most beneficial, but build up to this.

How often should I walk?

NHS guidelines say we should be doing moderate intensity activity for 150 minutes a week, which walking can count towards. Guidelines suggest that even a 10 minute daily walk can have benefits.

There is research to support that walking 30 minutes a day for at least 4 days a week is beneficial to health. Although it is suggested by some this should be done every day. It appears there are benefits even if we split the 30 minutes into 10 minute intervals.

Building up to longer distances and increasing inclines slowly would be recommended. Of course always follow any medical guidance. Whatever distance you do, regular walking, especially in nature has multiple benefits. Why not go for a walk today?