Is it really possible to walk your way to better health and happiness, improved fitness and even longer life? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that adults “engage in moderate-intensity physical activity (regular walking or racewalking at less than 5 mph) for at least 30 minutes on five or more days of the week,” or “in vigorous-intensity physical activity (racewalking and aerobic walking at 5 mph or faster) for at least 20 minutes on three or more days of the week.”
According to varied experts and research, regular walking can help to:
1. Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels—Regular walking can help to lower blood pressure and stabilize blood sugar levels.
2. Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes—Adults who did at least 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, cut their risk of diabetes by as much as 30 percent, according to the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study.
3. Decrease the risk of cancer—According to the US National Cancer Institute, regular physical exercise might help to lower the risk of several types of cancer. Key word: regular.
4. Help to prevent dementia—Many studies have found that age-related mental decline and the risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s are lower in those who walk regularly. Walking 6 miles or more per week can help to prevent brain shrinkage and preserve memory in older people.
5. Boost vitamin D—Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health suggest that vigorous exercise creates higher levels of vitamin D and higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
6. Increase your energy—By boosting circulation and increasing oxygen to all of your body’s cell, walking can help you feel more alert.
7. Improve circulation—Walking can increase endurance and boost circulation, especially if you warm up and cool down for about 5 minutes before and after walking.
8. Lighten your mood—A brisk walk reduces endorphins (natural painkillers) which can lift your mood and be as effective as antidepressants in mild to moderate cases of depression and stress reduction.
9. Strengthen muscles—Walking with good posture can help to tone up legs, abs and glutes—especially if you add hill walking. You can even tone arm muscles by pumping your arms as yu walk.
10. Support your joints—Most joint cartilage has no direct blood supply and is nourished by joint fluid that circulates as we move. When we don’t walk, our joints don’t get that essential fluid, and can deteriorate more quickly.
11. Reduce inflammation in the body—Walking for just 20 minutes a day may help fight inflammation. A study found a 5 percent decrease in the number of immune cells connected to the body’s inflammatory response.
12. Lessen osteoporosis risk—Daily walking can reduce the risk of hip fractures in post-menopausal women, and halt the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis.
13. Help to lose and maintain weight—A 30 minute walk at 2 mph can burn some 76 calories; 3 mph can burn 99 calories, and 4 mph can burn 150 calories.
14. Strengthen your heart—Walking can help to ward off heart disease by increasing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and strengthening the heart. Walking can also help to prevent stroke.
15. Help Longevity—Regular walking can potentially help to increase your life span. Research from the University of Michigan Medical School and the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System says that regular exercises in their 50s and 60s are 35 percent less likely to die over the next eight years than their peers who don’t walk.
16. Improve Sleep—Research from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that senior women who walked for an hour each morning had better sleep patterns and less insomnia.