What’s not to like about walking? It’s free. It’s easy to do, and easy to fit into your daily routine. And there’s no question that walking is good for you. A University of Tennessee study found that women who walked had less body fat than those who didn’t walk. It also lowers the risk of blood clots, since the calf acts as a venous pump, contracting and pumping blood from the feet and legs back to the heart, reducing the load on the heart.
In addition to being an easy aerobic exercise, walking is good for you in many other ways. It offers numerous health benefits to people of all ages and fitness levels. It may also help prevent certain diseases and even prolong your life.
All you need to start walking is a sturdy pair of walking shoes. Here are some of the benefits of walking:
1. Lose Weight
Walking can help you burn calories. Burning calories can help you maintain or lose weight.
Your actual calorie burn will depend on several factors, including:
A brisk 30-minute walk burns 200 calories. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropped.
2. Strengthen the heart
Walking at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can reduce your risk for coronary heart disease by about 19 percentTrusted Source. And your risk may reduce even more when you increase the duration or distance you walk per day.
3. Can help lower your blood sugar
Taking a short walk after eating may help lower your blood sugar.
A small 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.
More research is needed to confirm these findings, though.
Consider making a post-meal walk a regular part of your routine. It can also help you fit exercise in throughout the day.
4. Eases joint pain
Walking can help protect the joints, including your knees and hips. That’s because it helps lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support the joints.
Walking may also provide benefits for people living with arthritis, such as reducing pain. And walking 5 to 6 miles a week may also help prevent arthritis.
5.Boosts immune function
Walking may reduce your risk for developing a cold or the flu.
One study tracked 1,000 adults during flu season. Those who walked at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day had 43 percent fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections overall.
Their symptoms were also lessened if they did get sick. That was compared to adults in the study who were sedentary.
Try to get in a daily walk to experience these benefits. If you live in a cold climate, you can try to walk on a treadmill or around an indoor mall.
6. Boost your energy
Going for a walk when you’re tired may be a more effective energy boost than grabbing a cup of coffee.
Walking increases oxygen flow through the body. It can also increase levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Those are the hormones that help elevate energy levels.
7. Lighten Your Mood
Walking releases natural painkilling endorphins to the body – one of the emotional benefits of exercise. A California State University, Long Beach, study showed that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were.
Walking can help your mental health. Studies show it can help reduce anxiety, depression, and a negative mood. It can also boost self-esteem and reduce symptoms of social withdrawal. To experience these benefits, aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate intensity exercise three days a week. You can also break it up into three 10-minute walks.
8. Improve Sleep
Studies found that women, ages 50 to 75, who took one-hour morning walks, were more likely to relieve insomnia than women who didn’t walk
9. Extend your life
Walking at a faster pace could extend your life. Researchers found that walking at an average pace compared to a slow pace resulted in a 20 percent reduced risk of overall death.
But walking at a brisk or fast pace (at least 4 miles per hour) reduced the risk by 24 percent. The study looked at the association of walking at a faster pace with factors like overall causes of death, cardiovascular disease, and death from cancer.
10. Tone your legs
Walking can strengthen the muscles in your legs. To build up more strength, walk in a hilly area or on a treadmill with an incline. Or find routes with stairs.
Also trade off walking with other cross-training activities like cycling or jogging. You can also perform resistance exercises like squats, lunges, and leg curls to further tone and strengthen your leg muscles.
11. Creative thinking
Walking may help clear your head and help you think creatively.
A study that included four experiments compared people trying to think of new ideas while they were walking or sitting. Researchers found participants did better while walking, particularly while walking outdoors.
The researchers concluded that walking opens up a free flow of ideas and is a simple way to increase creativity and get physical activity at the same time.
Try to initiate a walking meeting with your colleagues the next time you’re stuck on a problem at work.
12. Improve Your Breath
When walking, your breathing rate increases, causing oxygen to travel faster through bloodstream, helping to eliminate waste products and improve your energy level and the ability to heal.
13. Slow Down Mental Decline
A study of 6,000 women, ages 65 and older, performed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that age-related memory decline was lower in those who walked more. The women walking 2.5 miles per day had a 17% decline in memory, as opposed to a 25% decline in women who walked less than a half-mile per week.
14. Lower Alzheimer’s Risk
A study from the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville found that men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than those who walked less.
15. Improve Circulation
Walking wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart. Post-menopausal women who walk just one to two miles a day can lower their blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks. Women who walk 30 minutes a day can reduce their risk of stroke by 20%, and by 40% when they stepped up the pace, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
16. Do More for Longer
Aerobic walking and resistance exercise programs may reduce the incidence of disability in the activities of daily living for people who are older than 65 and have symptomatic OA, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management found.
Tips for staying safe while walking
To ensure your safety while walking, follow these tips:
To get started walking, all you’ll need is a pair of sturdy walking shoes. Choose a walking route near your home. Or look for a scenic place to walk in your area, such as a trail or on the beach.
You can also recruit a friend or family member to walk with you and hold you accountable.
Alternatively, you can add walking into your daily routine. Here are some ideas:
Walking can fulfill daily recommended exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels.
Consider getting a pedometer or other fitness tracker to keep track of your daily steps. Here are some to check out.
Choose a walking route and daily step goal that’s appropriate for your age and fitness level.
Warm and cool down before walking to avoid injury. Always speak to your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.