The Health Benefits of Walking
When people think of exercises and ways to lose weight, they often think of running, cycling, swimming, and weight lifting, amongst other intense exercises. However, people often overlook the benefits of one very simple exercise—walking. While it’s not nearly as intense as other forms of exercise, trying to go for a long walk (or multiple walks) every day can provide an assortment of benefits for both physical and mental health.
Here are eight reasons why you should be trying to go out for walks every day:
It burns calories
While you won’t burn as many calories as you would running or swimming, walking is a relaxing, easy way to exercise and doesn’t require you to be a “fitness junkie” to make the most of it since anyone can do it. This can be useful in helping people lose or maintain their weight, as one study found that those who walk more and sit less have lower BMIs. Your actual calorie burn will vary depending on your walking speed, distance covered, weight, and terrain (you’ll burn more calories walking uphill).
Eases joint pain
Walking can protect joints, including your knees and hips, by lubricating and strengthening the muscles that support the joints. It’s also easier on the joints for those with joint problems, as opposed to running.
Walking can also provide benefits for those with arthritis, such as reducing pain. In fact, walking 5-6 miles per week may even help prevent arthritis.
Lower stress and improved mood
Like other forms of aerobic exercise, walking, especially out in nature, stimulates the production of neurotransmitters in the brain (such as endorphins) that help improve your mental state. If you’re stressed about work, school, or other life events, going for a walk is a great way to clear your mind.
To maximize this benefit, aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate intensity exercise three times a week. You can even break it up into three 10-minute walks!
A 2014 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that walking for roughly three hours per week was associated with an 11 percent reduced risk of premature death compared to those who did little to no activity. Additionally, researchers found that walking at an “average” pace compared to a slow pace resulted in a 20 percent reduced overall risk of death. In short, getting up and moving around can help increase your lifespan!
Boosts immune function
Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43 percent fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.
Lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar
A National Walkers’ Health study found that regular walking was linked to a 7 percent reduced risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, thus reducing your risk of heart disease. If you want a healthy heart, walking is one way to help promote one.
Moreover, the same study also found that walkers had a 12 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. If you want to really maximize your chances of reduced blood sugar, a different study found that taking a 15-minute walk three times a day (after breakfast, lunch, and dinner) improved blood sugar levels more than taking a 45-minute walk at another point during the day.
Helps tame a sweet tooth
In a surprising pair of studies, the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research confirms that walking can reduce cravings and intake of a variety of sugary snacks. While they weren’t major studies, they’re enough to show that walking can help control your sweet tooth.
Boosts creative thinking
You know how we mentioned that walking can help reduce stress and “clear your head”? It turns out it can also boost your creative thinking. One study found that people trying to think of new ideas have better success when they do it while walking instead of sitting. The researchers concluded that walking opens a free flow of ideas and is a simple way to increase creativity and get physical activity at the same time.
Interested in starting your own walking program? Check out this article for tips on how to develop your own walking plan.
Have a question? Contact us at Advocate@DirectPathHealth.com