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Walking is one of the best things you can do for your health–period! But, as with so many healthy changes we make in our lives, it can be hard to figure out how to get the most out of your walking routine.
Some people swear by walks in the morning, while some advocate for an evening stroll. We all want to burn as many calories and reap as many benefits as we possibly can.
So–what’s the straight dope?
Morning Walks Really Are The Best–Here’s Why!
We’re sure that if you’ve taken even a quick look around the internet at exercise and fitness sites, you’ll have seen folks advocating for morning walking. Of course, a lot of “experts” on the internet tell you you absolutely must do certain things without any solid science behind their claims. However, in this case, they’re right!
Morning is best for walking, and there are several reasons why.
A brisk walk right out of bed boosts energy all day long, according to Prevention. It’s a heck of a lot better than your morning cuppa! In fact, using caffeine to energize your body and mind is actually detrimental. Your body naturally self-energizes, and when you supplement it with caffeine, it stops producing those wakey-wakey chemicals. The result is being sleepier and even more dependent on coffee. Morning walks will help signal to your body that it needs to wake itself up and become alert for the day ahead. Studies have repeatedly shown that people who walk early are more energized and alert all the way through the day.
An Appalachia State University study also found that getting up slightly earlier and going for a walk actually improves sleep patterns! You might be reluctant to start walking in the morning because it cuts into your sleep, but you’ll find that it’s a net gain in the long run. By walking early, you lower blood pressure all day and the following night. That helps you relax and ease into sleep. You’ll fall asleep faster, and sleep more deeply once you’re under!
Morning walks do wonders for your mental health, too! Quiet alone time before you start your day helps you get your thoughts in order. You’ll be better prepared for the challenges of your day, as well as more alert. That’s backed by science, too! Your mental neurotrophic factor, which is a way of measuring mental acuity, is boosted by physical activity for 24 hours. You can take advantage of that boost all day if you walk first thing
It’s easier to stick with your routine if you get your walk out of the way before the distractions of your day arise. As anyone who’s planned to work out after work knows, a million things can get in the way and throw you off track. Getting your exercise in before you start the messy business of living is a smart time-management move!
Morning walks boost your metabolism significantly if you go for them before eating breakfast. You’ll digest your food more easily, and burn calories more efficiently. A number of studies have also shown that early exercise reduces cravings throughout the day, which is good news for those of us who find it hard to resist snacking! You’ll have improved self-control and a strengthened metabolism all day long.
Finally, there are any number of reasons why mornings are better for walks if you’re going outside and not using a treadmill or indoor track. Morning air is very refreshing, meaning you’ll wake up faster and more fully. Cooler temps outside make exercising more pleasant. Plus, there’s a lot less pollution early in the day.
Don’t Freak Out If Mornings Don’t Work For You!
It’s important not to feel like you can’t be successful with your walking routine if mornings aren’t going to work for you. There are lots of folks (overnight nurses, parents of school-age kids, etc.) who simply can’t make it work. That’s perfectly fine! You’ll still get plenty of benefits from exercising at any point in the day. Find what fits best into your routine and lifestyle!
Walks after work are perfect decompression time. You can turn them into a routine you build with your partner, neighbor, or friend. Or, walk home with a colleague who lives nearby! If you walk with someone else, that’s a perfect way to share everything that’s happened in your day and to decompress with someone you enjoy spending time with. Solo afternoon and evening walks are still an ideal way to process what’s happened throughout your day. Going for them will help you feel less cluttered and frenetic in your brain when you go to bed.
Walking during breaks or meetings is a great way to build active time into your workday! It’ll help you avoid the afternoon slump, and the mental fuzziness that sets in after hours on end at your desk. A lot of employers will be supportive of this if you explain it and can give them some concrete examples of successful brainstorming or problem-solving in the first few times you take a walking meeting.
An after-dinner walk will help you digest, but don’t do this if you’re early to bed. You need between 1-3 hours after exercise for your body to slow down and get ready for sleep.
Remember, the important thing is to walk often–not to walk at any set time. The main reason we encourage you to pick a time at all is to help you form a routine. No matter when you walk, you’re still burning calories and staying active!
Of course, walking for health is only truly healthy if you’re looking after your feet! You can find our expert reviews and recommendations of supportive, high-quality walking shoes by visiting our main page. We’ve also got you covered with picks in the hiking and running categories, if that’s more your jam! You can even find recommendations specially for people dealing with plantar fasciitis. Head over to our homepage to find links to all our guides!