Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. As advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults of all ages should engage in aerobic activity, with 150 minutes each week a good goal to aim for. While jogging, swimming, cycling and other activities are great ways to get moving, you may be surprised to learn that the simple act of walking – on a regular basis – can be enormously beneficial for your health.
In an article from Prevention magazine, Dr. Melina B. Jampolis elaborated on the benefits of a brisk daily walk:
“Walking is the No. 1 exercise I recommend to most of my patients because it is very easy to do, requires nothing but a pair of tennis shoes and has tremendous mental and physical benefits,” she explained.
Before you begin any new fitness routine, be sure to consult your physician to make sure it is right for you. Ready to learn more? Here is a look at some of the major benefits of this low key form of exercise:
1. You may lose weight
Much like other forms of exercise, heading out to the park for a long stroll can help you to lose weight. As explained in an article from NDTV, a 2014 study from researchers at the University of Utah found that women in particular can decrease their risk of obesity by 5 percent for every minute spent walking at a brisk pace. Of course, the longer you walk for and the faster the pace, the more likely you’ll be to notice results.
2. You can strengthen your bones
As we get older our risk of developing osteoporosis increases. Most common in older adults, osteoporosis is characterized by a gradual weakening and loss of bone tissue, the Mayo Clinic explained, placing those with it at a higher risk of fractures. The National Arthritis Foundation reported that regular walking can actually slow the progress of osteoporosis down, by preventing further bone loss. The NAF also reported on a study that found that women who have undergone menopause can reduce their risk of complications from osteoporosis – namely fractures – by some 40 percent, simply by walking each day for just half an hour.
3. Boost your mood
It isn’t just your physical health that improves by walking regularly. Prevention magazine continued their discussion with Dr. Jampolis, who explained how walking can actually help improve your mood and sense of well-being. She noted that the social aspect of walking – you can stroll with a close friend or family member – as well as the fact that being outside allows you to absorb natural sunlight, which has been shown to curtail the effects of depression, particularly seasonal affective disorder, both help improve mood. And of course, that’s not to mention the fact that any form of exercise helps release feel-good endorphins – a chemical produced by the brain.
“Walking can help improve your mood and sense of well-being
“Research shows that regular walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you’ll experience a decrease in anger and hostility,” she also noted.
The NAF echoed these sentiments by citing a study from California State University, Long Beach, which found that there is a positive correlation between improved mood and the number of steps taken each day – the more people walked, the happier they seemed to be.
4. You may reduce your risk of illness
As explained by NDTV, a number of studies have observed a relationship between frequent walking and a reduced risk of developing certain cancers. The article reported on a study from the American Cancer Society, for example, which found that the risk of breast cancer can be reduced by up to 14 percent in those who walk for around seven hours a week. Another study, from Harvard University, found that the risk of death from breast and uterine cancer may be reduced by as much as 20 percent among those who walk just one to three hours a week.
5. Keep your blood pressure healthy
The Mayo Clinic explained how walking on a routine basis – at a brisk pace – can help lower blood pressure and keep it at healthier levels. Given that high blood pressure is often connected with heart disease, regular walking can reduce your risk of developing that chronic condition as well. Walking can be an effective way for those already living with certain illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, to manage symptoms and remain as healthy as possible.
6. Build and strengthen muscle
Walking on a regular basis – ideally every day – can help build and strengthen your muscle, the NAF detailed. The muscles in your abdomen and legs reap the most benefits. Stronger muscles can help with balance and gait, and for those with chronic conditions such as arthritis, they may help reduce symptoms of chronic pain.
7. Sleep better
The key to a successful day is often a restful night, and walking has been shown to improve one’s ability to sleep well, the NAF maintained, citing a study from the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Researchers examined women who walked for 60 minutes daily. They were all between the ages of 50 and 75. Results indicated that those who engaged in the daily walks were less likely to show symptoms of insomnia – a condition characterized by an inability to achieve or maintain deep and meaningful sleep.
There are so many reasons to throw on a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes and get walking. Again, if you are living with chronic conditions such as heart disease or arthritis, be sure to consult with your physician before you embark on or adjust your exercise regimen.