The Health Benefits of Walking
Spring is here and it’s time step up your game and get active. There are many choices of physical activities out there, but walking is one of the easiest and has the lowest dropout rate of them all. And according to the American Heart Association, it’s one of the most positive changes you can make to effectively improve your heart health.
Research has shown that the benefits of walking and moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
- Strengthen Your Heart – Regular walking has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It lowers levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and keeps blood pressure in check. According to the Stroke Association, walking briskly for up to 30 minutes can help prevent and control the high blood pressure that can cause strokes – reducing your risk by up to 27 per cent.
- Lower Your Risk of Disease – As well as heart disease, a walking habit can dramatically reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, asthma and even some cancers. A study in the British Medical Journal showed taking more steps every day can help ward off diabetes. Other research suggests that active individuals have around a 20 percent lower risk of developing cancer of the colon, breast and womb than those least active.
- Lose Weight – If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to burn about 600 calories a day more than you’re eating. Walking is the easiest way to do that. Walking also increases muscle mass and tone and the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism.
- Help Prevent Dementia – Dementia affects one in 14 people over age 65 and one in six over 80. Studies have shown that being active has a protective effect on brain function and regular exercise reduces dementia risk by up to 40 percent. And, according to new research, older people who walk six miles or more per week could avoid brain shrinkage.
- Decrease Risk of Osteoporosis – Walking is a weight-bearing activity. It stimulates and strengthens bones, increasing their density – which is extremely important, especially for women. It also helps maintain healthy joints, which could lower your risk of arthritis as well.
- Tone Those Trouble Spots – If you’re looking to improve muscle tone in your legs, bottom or tummy, walking can help. A good walk can help strengthen and shape your legs, giving great definition to calves, quads, and hamstrings while also lifting your glutes (buttock muscles) – especially if you add hills. If you focus on your posture as you walk, walking can help tone your abs and slim your waistline, too.
- Boost Your Vitamin D Levels – If you’re walking outside in daylight, you’re gathering sunshine and boosting your body’s stores of vitamin D – a nutrient that’s hard to get from food, but that we can synthesize from exposure to sunlight. After the winter months, many of us are deficient in this crucial nutrient that plays a role in everything from bone health to immunity. Of course, don’t forget to protect your skin with sunscreen if you’re out when the UV rays are strongest.
- Increase Energy Levels – It may seem counterintuitive – you come home from work tired and the last thing you want to do is go for a walk. But, even just a brisk walk around the block can naturally energize you. Walking boosts circulation and increases the oxygen supply to each and every cell in your body, helping you to feel more alert and alive. It loosens up stiff joints and eases muscle tension so you feel less sluggish.
- Make You Happy – The fact that exercise can boost mood is well documented. Studies have shown regular, moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) to be as effective as antidepressants in cases of mild to moderate depression. Exercise releases those feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream, reducing stress and anxiety.