10 Benefits of Walking
What’s not to like about walking? It’s easy to do. It’s natural. And, it’s absolutely free! Our bodies are not designed to sit all day: driving, or staring at a screen, or working. Our bodies are designed to be active!
Get up! Move! Walk! Walking might be one of the healthiest forms of all exercise, and one of the best “prescriptions” to improve your physical and mental health. Walking, compared to other exercise, can be done almost any where at any time. Consider a simple daily walk to reap the following 10 Benefits of Walking.
1. Good for Your Heart.
One of the primary benefits of walking is it can improve your cardiovascular health, as well as ward off heart disease — which is a leading cause of death (1).
A “brisk walk” — a pace where you’re breathing harder, but still able to speak in full sentences — can
raise the heart rate, lower blood pressure, and strengthen the heart. Walking helps improve how your arteries function — by increasing overall elasticity, which in turn lowers the risk of developing hypertension — and balances your cholesterol levels.
The American Heart Association suggests that walk for 150 minutes a week — or 30 minutes per day / 5 days per week.
2. Regulates Blood Sugar.
According to WebMD, a walk after a meal — even for 5 minutes — helps your body regulate blood glucose levels by reducing blood sugar and insulin levels. In general, after we eat our blood sugar levels spike, and the insulin produced to control them can lead to cardiovascular problems and diabetes. A “post-meal” walk helps move glucose out of the bloodstream and into muscles for fuel. Walking also helps your body create more insulin sensitivity, that helps the body maintain steady glucose levels over the long-term.
3. Improves Mental Health.
Walking can improve our mental health — by reducing anxiety and stress, boost our moods, and increasing overall happiness, according — according to the American Psychological Association. Walking helps promote the production and release of endorphins — that stimulate relaxation and improve our mood — and increases serotonin levels — that help reduce our stress and anxiety.
The bonus is you don’t have to walk at a “fast pace” to enjoy the above benefits of walking. A casual / leisurely stroll, with a comfortable pace, is all you need to do.
4. Strengthens Your Muscles.
Did you know walking uses 200 muscles? We use just about every single muscle — from our neck down to our toes — when we walk, to help us keep our balance and move forward. In addition, walking tones our arms, legs, and abdominal muscles.
It strengthens muscles in our lower body — calves, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps. It strengthens muscles in our upper body — biceps / triceps — when we pump our arms. In addition, strengthening muscles in the lower body also provides support for the joints and helps reduce injuries.
5. Enhances Flexibility.
Walking helps to improve joint flexibility by loosening tight muscles around the joints and encouraging increased range of motion. This is especially important for people who are aging and want to help maintain their independence by keeping their muscles strong and their joints flexible.
6. Increases Bone Density.
Walking can also help keep bones strong by encouraging increased bone density, especially in the hips, spine, and wrists. This is important for maintaining bone health and preventing age-related bone diseases like osteoporosis.
Walking can stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis, according to Michael A. Schwartz, MD, of Plancher Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in New York. In fact, one study of post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40%.
7. Reduces Stress.
Walking is a great way to reduce stress.
When we walk, our serotonin levels increase, which helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Exercise in general is helpful for reducing anxiety, and the best part about walking is that it can be done almost anywhere, at any time and with minimal effort. This makes it easy to incorporate into our daily lives.
Studies have consistently shown that regular physical activity, including walking, can help reduce stress hormones in the body, as well as reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Regular walking can also help reduce fatigue and improve sleep quality, both of which are important for managing stress levels.
8. Improves Mental Clarity.
Walking can help you relax both mentally and physically. Taking a walk outside can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as give you a chance to appreciate your natural environment. Walking can be meditative, as it encourages mindfulness and a chance to clear your thoughts.
Walking can also help increase your ability to focus, concentration, and improve your memory. The National Institutes of Health suggests that regular walking can increase oxygen levels to the brain, which can help improve mental alertness, and stimulate the creation of new brain cells.
9. Improve Your Metabolism.
Walking can improve your metabolic rate, which is the speed your body can process food. The American Journal of Physiology- Endocrinology, and Metabolism, suggests: walking 45 minutes a day / 3 times per week can help boost your metabolism.
Consequently, this would help to improve your digestion and nutrient absorption as well, which makes it easier for the body to burn fat and keep the body healthy.
10. Promotes Weight Loss.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, walking is one of the best ways to lose weight and increase our metabolism. On average, walking can burn between 200-300 calories an hour.
A simple guide to help you are the 3 F’s: faster, farther, and frequency. The faster (intensity), the farther (distance) and the more frequency (how often) you walk — the greater the health benefits.
The goal is to start slow, and incorporate walking into your daily routine/schedule. Consult a doctor if you have not walked for exercise in a long time.
Start the day with a walk. Walk-in-place at home. Take 5-10 minute walk at lunch — or when you’re on a break. Start walking.
Walking is a simple — and low-impact — exercise, that research suggests might be one of the best and healthiest forms of all physical activity. Hopefully, you will add it to your daily routine so you can take full advantage of all 10 Benefits of Walking.
But please do not take my word for it. Try the below experiment for yourself.
Walk 30 minutes a day — for the next 21 days or so — and see how you feel.
- Walk like you’re running late: with a sense of urgency. Can you do that?
- Walk on an empty stomach: if you want to boost your metabolism as well as lower blood sugar levels.
- Walk after eating: if you want to just transform glucose into fuel as well as create more insulin sensitivity.