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Types and Benefits of Walking: Health, Fitness, and Fun

Updated on September 10, 2017
AliciaC profile image

Linda Crampton is a biology teacher who loves to walk. She enjoys exploring places on foot and appreciates the health benefits of walking.

Walking is a wonderful way to explore and has great health benefits.
Walking is a wonderful way to explore and has great health benefits. | Source

My Favourite Form of Exercise

Walking is a wonderful form of exercise and a great activity for maintaining both physical and mental health. It's also very convenient, since it can be done as part of daily activities such as travelling to and from work, going to an appointment, doing some shopping, or exercising a dog. A walking session can be easy, moderately challenging, or hard, depending on the type of walking and the terrain. Best of all, it's fun.

Walking has always been an important part of my life. When I was a child, walking was how I got to school, visited friends, and reached the library and stores. It also enabled me to explore new places and observe nature. It calmed me down when I was angry, cheered me up when I was depressed, and helped me find solutions for problems. I never thought of walking as exercise—it was just something that I did every day.

In adulthood I continue to walk and find it just as beneficial and enjoyable as I did when I was a child. I make sure that I do more challenging types of walking as well as easier types. A major benefit of this choice is that it helps to keep both me and my dog fit.

Walking is a great way to explore nature.
Walking is a great way to explore nature. | Source

If you are very out of shape or very overweight or if you have a chronic health problem, make sure that you consult a doctor before you start a walking program.

Walking for Physical and Mental Health

Walking is a very versatile form of exercise. A walk can be slow and gentle for beginners, the elderly or the infirm, or it can be strenuous and very aerobic for people who want a harder workout. The great thing about walking and some other types of exercise is that the benefits are not only physical but also mental. Walking can improve mood, relieve stress, and boost creativity.

Walking slowly certainly has some benefits. In order to experience the majority of the benefits offered by the activity, however, some effort must be made during a walk. People who are interested in adding variety to their workouts can choose from a variety of walking styles that increase intensity or exercise specific muscle groups.

Physical activity such as walking can help improve health even without weight loss.

— Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Walking through a park is a very enjoyable activity.
Walking through a park is a very enjoyable activity. | Source

Hill Walking and Hiking

Walking uphill and hiking are great workouts. Climbing hills raises the heart rate and is excellent exercise for the leg muscles. It's important to warm up muscles by doing gentle walking before beginning to climb, however. It's also important for beginners to rest when necessary and even to turn around and go back down a slope before reaching the summit if necessary. I find it an enjoyable challenge to go a bit further up a difficult hill each time I tackle it.

I’m lucky to live at the base of a forested hill which was left mainly untouched when the city was developed. It's easy for me to get an uphill walk and to be surrounded by nature. My dog and I love these trips. They provide great exercise for both of us and the scenery is lovely.

At the top of the hill we reach the Trans Canada Trail. The plan is to eventually make this the longest recreational trail in the world, connecting British Columbia in Western Canada to Newfoundland in Eastern Canada. Walking even a small distance along the trail is very enjoyable.

I also like to go for day hikes in the nearby mountains. Hiking is a wonderful escape from the city. Despite the hard physical effort involved in climbing rough trails, I find hiking to be very relaxing mentally. It's important to note that a mountain hike in a remote area is very different from climbing a hill in an urban or suburban area, however. Preparation and precautions are necessary.

Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking. You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.

— Cindy Ross
One nice thing about climbing a steep hill is that there is often a view at the top. This is a view of Burrard Inlet in southwestern British Columbia.
One nice thing about climbing a steep hill is that there is often a view at the top. This is a view of Burrard Inlet in southwestern British Columbia. | Source

Power or Speed Walking

Just as in childhood, I don't walk to deliberately give myself exercise. I walk for fun, to explore, to keep my dog fit, to do jobs like shopping and visiting the library, to improve my mood, and to help me think. Since I usually walk either briskly or uphill, exercise is a “side effect” of my walks. Sometimes, however, I do add activities to a walk specifically for their fitness benefits.

I find power walking, also known as speed walking, to be a good workout. This style of walking is done with bent arms, allowing the walker to move at a faster pace than walking with arms hanging at the sides. If you decide to try this style of walking, look on the Internet or in a reference book for instructions. Better yet, get personal instructions from an expert. Body form is important in power walking. Power walking strengthens the upper body, abdomen, and lower body.

I do power walking intervals in some of my regular walks. Power walking is not the same as race walking. Race walking, which is an Olympic sport, enables a walker to move as fast as some runners. I haven't tried this type of walking.

How to Power Walk

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderately-intense aerobic exercise—such as brisk walking—each week.

Nordic or Pole Walking

Nordic walking is also known as pole walking or urban poling. Nordic walking (walking with special poles that somewhat resemble ski poles) appeals to me because it gives both an upper and a lower body workout at the same time. It's also a very low impact form of exercise. I have walking poles and enjoy using them. I don't use them as often as I should, though, because I usually walk with my dog.

Using poles is a great addition to a walking session. Poles are very useful for people who can't walk any faster than they already do but would like to increase the fitness value of their exercise session. Walking with poles can increase calorie burn compared to walking at the same intensity without poles. It can also improve cardiovascular fitness.

Another advantage of Nordic walking is that the support provided by poles can help to compensate for lower body problems. Nordic walking probably reduces stress on lower body joints, although this needs to be demonstrated by research.

Caution is needed when purchasing walking poles. Very inexpensive ones are often quite flimsy and not very supportive. The use of the latest construction materials means that a supportive walking pole doesn't have to be heavy.

How to Do Nordic Walking

Stair Climbing

If I see a steps when I’m on a walk I happily climb them. I enjoy the challenge of climbing stairs in buildings, going from floor to floor without stopping instead of using an elevator. Deliberately going up and down stairs in quick succession, though, seems like forced exercise to me. I do it occasionally but not very often. Exercise has to be fun for me.

Stair climbing is great exercise. It's a low impact exercise and increases cardiorespiratory fitness. It's more stressful for the body than walking on a flat surface, however. The intensity and duration of stair climbing sessions should be increased gradually. Incorporating mini strength workouts such as stair climbing into a regular walk is an excellent way to boost the exercise value of the walk.

Climbing steps and hills is great exercise. Reaching an interesting goal is a bonus. These are the remains of an ancient amphitheatre in Turkey.
Climbing steps and hills is great exercise. Reaching an interesting goal is a bonus. These are the remains of an ancient amphitheatre in Turkey. | Source

Walking and Strength Exercises

During some walks I stop to do strength exercises when my dog and I find a quiet spot. I sometimes carry an exercise band on my walks. Exercise bands (or resistance bands) don't weigh much—although there are exceptions to this rule—and they can be folded up to put in a pocket or a pack. The stretchy bands can be used to do exercises that build upper body or lower body strength. They aren't essential for increasing upper body strength, however. For example, I often do pushups during a walk when I find a suitable surface to act as a support.

Walking Benefits

Walking, Fitness, and Health

Please don’t think that you have to do the more rigorous styles of walking that I have described to get any benefit from walking. Scientists have found that any form of walking has valuable health benefits. That being said, benefits will be limited without some exertion.

Regular, brisk walking on a flat and smooth surface is enough to lower the level of “bad” or LDL cholesterol in the blood, reduce the risk of a heart attack and type 2 diabetes, reduce inflammation in the body, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of some types of cancer, and improve mood.

Interval walking—alternating fast and slow intervals within the same walk—has also been found to be good exercise and may be easier for some people to do than a continuous fast walk.

Researchers say that in order to produce a significant weight loss walking has to be brisk and frequent. It's important to follow a healthy diet as well. If your goal is to do more intense walking, remember to increase the intensity gradually. Also remember that you don’t have to push yourself on every walk. I still go for slow walks sometimes.

Walking on a beach is fun.
Walking on a beach is fun. | Source

Running: Great Exercise, But Not for Me

I used to run and often trained for ten kilometer races. Running certainly caused me to lose a lot of weight and the racing events were fun. The training was enjoyable on some days but not much fun on other days. I also developed several minor injuries, even though I was trying to follow a sensible training routine and used good running shoes. What really made me realize that running was not the ideal exercise for me was when I began to resent missing my walking days because of my running training.

I no longer run and find that walking keeps me in good shape. I still enjoy the fun of 10K events, but now I enter as a walker instead of a runner. There are running events of different lengths— including short runs and marathons—that welcome walkers. Walker-only events are held in some places.

I need to walk. It enriches my life and keeps me fit. I hope that I’ll be able to keep walking for the rest of my life, even if some day I have to do slower, easier, and shorter walks.

I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

— John Muir

A Walking Poll

What is the most important role of walking in your life?

See results

References

  • "How much physical activity do adults need?" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm (accessed September 10, 2017).
  • "Physical Activity and Health." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/ (accessed September 10, 2017).
  • Robinson, Kara Mayer. "Tips for Power Walking." WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/power-walking#1 (accessed September 10, 2017.)
  • Laskowski, Edward R, MD. "Could walking poles help me get more out of my daily walk?" The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/walking-poles/faq-20057943 (accessed September 10, 2017).
  • "Nordic Walking." National Health Service. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/nordic-walking.aspx (accessed September 10, 2017).

© 2011 Linda Crampton

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    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for the comment and for sharing the interesting and useful information, aswalker.

    • aswalker profile image

      Amanda Walker 2 years ago from Troy, IL

      Great article. When I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I found I couldn't run anymore because the sweating and increased heart rate felt like a panic attack! But walking, even while I am having a panic attack, calms my mind. I have noticed that it increases my heart rate gradually so it doesn't feel like a panic attack.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much, fitnessengineers!

    • fitnessengineers profile image

      Christian Montalvo 3 years ago from New York, New York

      Very informative. Excellent writing!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Yes, that's a great benefit of walking poles!

    • DealForALiving profile image

      Sam Deal 3 years ago from Earth

      Those trekking poles are so helpful when you're coming down a mountain or hillside since they relieve the pressure on your joints!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks, easefeeds. I appreciate your comment. I agree - walking can be gentle but effective exercise for beginning exercisers.

    • easefeeds profile image

      Ease Feeds 3 years ago from Cyperspace

      This is great information. I think walking is one of the best ways to get back in shape, and I stress it especially for older people.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      How lovely to live so close to the beach, Nadine! Walking on or by a beach every day would be wonderful. I live quite near to a beach, too, but not near enough to take a daily walk there. Thanks for the visit and the comment.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Great hub on walking. We are fortunate to live 5 min walk to the beach and so we walk every day for about 30 to 40 min aftter we close the office at 6

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the visit, ologsinquito. As a former runner, I can understand the attraction of running, but it no longer appeals to me. I'm happy when I walk!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Rebecca. Thank you very much for the comment! Yes, the more walking that I do - especially if I walk briskly - the better my weight and the better I feel. It's a great form of exercise.

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      Walking is my favorite type of exercise as well. I'm not cut out for running and I never had the desire to be a runner. I like to walk.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Awesome information and well-presented. The more I walk, the better my weight level. I sure have noticed that! Thanks for reinforcing my walking plans!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, RTalloni. Yes, walking is a great exercise, and I love its versatility. It can be easy or hard, and relaxing or intense. Thank you for commenting!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks much for the nudge--I need to rebuild some strength through walking! You are right on every count about the benefits of walking. It's good for the "whole" of us! :)

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      No problem, rutley! Thanks for the new comment.

    • rutley profile image

      rutley 6 years ago from South Jersey

      Sorry about calling you Kris, I didn't realize I posted wrong.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you, rutley. I've loved walking since childhood too. I've tried other forms of exercise, but walking is my favorite. It fits into my life very well.

    • rutley profile image

      rutley 6 years ago from South Jersey

      Been walking my whole life....along with fitness teaching and weight training. Great hub Kris! I just wrote about an embarrasing moment...see if you can relate!

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you, MazioCreate. I do cycle sometimes, which is nice because I can go further than I do on my walks, but I enjoy walking and I like to take my dog with me.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Kris. I enjoy hiking, but I also enjoy walking because I live in an area where I can go for a nature walk every day. I like city walks too if the architecture and surroundings are interesting.

    • MazioCreate profile image

      MazioCreate 6 years ago from Brisbane Queensland Australia

      It sounds like you live in a beautiful part of the world. No wonder you are very happy to put the walking shoes on and go. I love to walk the dogs, but prefer running and cycling for my escapes. Thanks for sharing it was very interesting.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 6 years ago from Indiana

      I love hiking. I find it more interesting (and not as boring) as walking:)

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I have the same problem - I can't do an activity just for exercise. It has to be an activity that I enjoy and that serves another function in addition to developing fitness. For me, the ideal activity is walking. Having to exercise a dog is certainly a great motivation for walking, as you say! Thanks for the comment.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Great hub! I wish I had your love for walking. I try to be consistent...now and then...haha. I HATE exercise, so if I do it just for exercise, it's not going to stick with me. It helps when I walk my dog. I feel guilty, so I get him out for a bit. I've been thinking about walking to work--a little over a mile one way. I think walking is one of the best, safest forms of exercise. Thanks--maybe you'll inspire me.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank for your comment, Larry. Yes, mall walking can be a very useful way to exercise! Walking is such a versatile way to get in shape. Like you, I enjoy hiking too, and it gives my dogs great exercise as well.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 6 years ago from Northern California

      AliciaC, I also enjoy exercise. I do lower body strength training exercises regularly. And I choose these mainly because they help me to feel better for the rest of the day. During the Summer, I enjoy short mountain hikes, when I can get up that early in the morning.

      There's also a rainy-day walking option: mall walking. Some shopping malls open an hour before their stores do. And a fair number of walking aficionados avail themselves of the opportunity.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Fossillady. I walk regularly in winter, too. As long I wear warm or waterproof clothes, I find that walking in the winter is just as pleasant as walking in the summer! Thanks for your comment.

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Walking has always been one of my favorite past times and do regularly, even in the dead of winter I go outside for my walks, sometime through my forest. Thanks for sharing, great hub!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you very much for your comment, PegCole17. Yes, going for a walk with Misha is fun for both of us!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Beautiful scenery does lift the mood and walking helps the body. To top it off, you have the company of your loving pet Misha. Sounds lovely and you've described it so well. Makes me want to go outside.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Peggy W. Yes, I live in an ideal area for walking. I'm near a forested hill which has a park at the top, and there is an ocean inlet with a walking path beside it not far from my house. I can also access an urban trail, which is bordered by plants, from the bottom of my road. Walking's fun, but it's even more fun when you have a nice environment to walk in!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      It looks like you have an absolutely beautiful area in which to do your nature walks. Our area in general is very flat. We have a nice greenbelt area right in our subdivision that invites walking and it starts one block from our home which is nice. Good hub!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      A combination of beach walks and walks by the shore of a lake sounds wonderful. I checked the photo of your cat - Little Miss Tiffy is beautiful!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 6 years ago

      ...well thank you for your endorsement and visit to my humble hub space - and I have just been taking a very pleasant walk through your various pages of interest.

      I have nice walks too so I can relate to this wonderful hub of yours because I am a fellow Canadian who lives in Ontario - 100 feet or so away from frozen Lake Erie.

      I walk along my beach in the spring to the fall and then along the lakeshore road in the winter with such a beautiful view.

      I am a cat lover too - I have two cats - Little Miss Tiffy and Mister Gabriel -and if you want to see Little Miss Tiffy - go to Google search - type in 'epigramman' and then click the cache which reads - Do you know eprigramman?

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, Nell. Walking by a river would be very pleasant. I'm trying to find time to do more Nordic walking at the moment. It does have some advantages compared to regular walking.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, I remember seeing Nordic walking on TV, it looked liked skiing without the ski's or the snow, but it certainly looked like a good idea, especially if you are walking up hills, it takes the strain out of your body, I walk everywhere, I am lucky because I live near a river so we go really often, great hub, cheers nell

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, tonymac04. Thanks for your comment. I like to walk anywhere - in cities or in the countryside - but I much prefer walking in the countryside, surrounded by nature. Even if I'm walking in the city I try to travel through areas which have plants and animals.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Walking is wonderful, no doubt about it. I have been walking since I was very young. I lived with my parents in a rural area and every evening after my dad came home from work we used to go out into the countryside together, with my mother. I think that my love of nature was nurtured on those walks.

      Thanks for sharing

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Sandyspider - Yes, walking is very enjoyable. It's my favorite exercise too!

      Rosie2010 - I sometimes walk by a lake too, but I have to drive to reach the lake. Luckily there's an ocean inlet within walking distance from my house, so I can still walk by water frequently. I agree, walking by the water is very relaxing!

    • Rosie2010 profile image

      Rosie Rose 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hiya Alicia, now I know why you love walking too. Here in Toronto, I walking by the lake shore. I love the sound of water splashing the rocks. So relaxing.

      Have a nice day,

      Rosie

    • Sandyspider profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      I love walking. My favorite exercise.

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, carrie450. Like you, I find that walking is a great mood improver!

      Hi, rich_hayles. I'm sure that climbing the stairs has helped keep your gran fit. Stair climbing is good exercise!

    • rich_hayles profile image

      rich_hayles 6 years ago

      My gran claims that she has kept in incredible shape due to the stairs in her house. She walks up and down them at least 15 times a day to the toilet and thinks it is what has kept her so healthy for the last 84 years :) Who am I to complain?

      I love walking aswell, just wish there were more scenic routes close to me but its sadly concrete city.

    • carrie450 profile image

      carrie450 6 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

      I enjoy walking every single day. If I am feeling down on a particular day,I am so energized when I get back home.

      Maybe one day I'll get to see the Canada Trail. I've heard so much about it.

    • AliciaC profile image
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      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you, kashmir56. I agree, walking is a wonderful activity!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Alicia, I love to walk,down by the country side or down by the beach, walking is great exercise and you are in touch with nature in the fresh air!

      Great hub!!!

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, jantamaya. I like that saying - "If you rest, you rust." That's very true! You've made a good point - exercising the brain by doing activities like solving puzzles keeps it working well.

    • jantamaya profile image

      Maria Janta-Cooper 6 years ago from UK

      AliciaC, a great idea to write a hub. Yes, walking is important. For example, my mom, she was all her life sitting, in the office and after she retired at home solving puzzles. Now she is eighty-six, still slim, but can't walk anymore... Her brain can "walk" very well, though... :-|If you rest, you rust :)

    • AliciaC profile image
      Author

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Hi, SEO IT! Thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree – climbing stairs is tough if you haven’t done it for a while! It’s great exercise, though.

      lookatmenow – I enjoy power walking, although I only do power walking intervals. I prefer to do regular walks. Thank you for your comment.

      Thanks, thougtforce! Yes, walking is never boring. There’s always something interesting to see, whether you’re walking in the country or in a city, and it’s fun to try the different styles of walking.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 6 years ago from Sweden

      Walking is one of my favorite exercise forms,and you have written a great hub containing all the reasons for walking! I have tried both power walks and nordic walks, and that is part of the fun, walking is never boring! Inspiring hub!

    • lookatmenow profile image

      lookatmenow 6 years ago from Canada

      ahh i walk everywhere...power walking omega lol

    • SEO IT! profile image

      Karla Whitmore 6 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      I love walking, though I must confess that I dread the types of stairs as shown in your first image. I always feel like I'm walking through mud for the last couple of flights... bet it wouldn't be like that if did it more often. ;-). Great hub!