An easy exercise that burns calories, reduces fatigue and stress, boosts endorphins, and improves your mood. It can tone your abs and lower your body fat percentage. It reduces lower back pain and your risks of heart attack and stroke. And these are just a few of the major benefits of doing this exercise regularly.
So what’s this great workout that’s so effective? Walking!
All you have to do is spend 30 minutes a day for five days a week and you will find that your body is toned and trim. Of course, no exercise can outrun a bad diet, so you need to eat healthy too. But if all you have is thirty minutes to spare for a workout, go for a walk – it’s free, requires no equipment, and is the easiest exercise of all for people of any age.
The Amazing Health Benefits of Walking
Walking has too many health benefits to be mentioned in a single article. So here are some of the highlights:
1. Stress Buster
Walking reduces the stress hormone cortisol while increasing mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. Take a walk when you feel angry, anxious, or sad. It lowers the blood pressure and your anger. Walking can really lift your spirits.
If you think this exercise is going to tire you out. Think again! Walking boosts endorphins and lowers fatigue. You will actually feel energized after a pleasant walk.
2. Joint Lubricator
Knee pain usually prevents people from walking as they are afraid it will worsen their condition. But walking is a gentle exercise that helps decrease knee pain and stiffness by keeping joints lubricated.
A study conducted over a period of 24 years from 1986 to 2010 recorded that more walking time, with little other exercises, lowered the risk of hip fractures by 43% and the risk decreased linearly with more frequent walking. Brisk pace lowered risk by 47% primarily among those who also walked for exercise.
3. Tones the Body
Walking decreases body weight, body fat percentage, and body mass index (BMI). This simple exercise tones ab muscles and reduces waist circumference. It helps build bone mass and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
A 2013 study from Tel Aviv University observed that fast walking two to three times a week for 20 to 40 minutes is as effective as the treatment that could have been received in the clinic to relieve back pain.
4. Improves Immunity
When you walk briskly on a regular basis, the heart pumps the blood harder, the lungs get more oxygen as you breathe in more deeply and your muscles grow stronger. Just as every other organ in the body benefits from exercising, the immunity system also gets a good boost that lasts for a few hours after you exercise.
Walking regularly has been found to decrease the odds of catching a cold by 30-50 percent. A study from the Appalachian State University states “Walking caused modest and short-lived changes in immune parameters, most notably for neutrophil and natural killer blood cell counts.”
5. Memory Booster
Memory issues and forgetfulness seem to be an accepted part of getting older. The hippocampus shrinks in late adulthood and this results in impaired memory. It also increases the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The hippocampus is the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
A brisk walk, that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus.
The prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex control thinking and memory. These parts of the brain have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t. According to Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital “Engaging in a program of regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months or a year is associated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions.”
6. Improves Sleep Quality
Walking is known to improve sleep quality and is associated with better cognitive performance. Since walking has been proven to reduce stress, this is one of the ways this exercise translates to better sleep. When you sleep longer and better at night, it in turn boosts your daytime energy levels.
A study in which sleep quality was evaluated by Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index observed that: “After 32 sessions of oriented walking, participants presented significant sleep quality and mood status improvement, especially in the variables tension, depression, anger, and mental confusion. ”
A Japanese study of 490 participants evaluated the impact of a 4-week walking intervention on subjective sleep quality. Their conclusion was “A walking intervention might reduce the sleep latency and increase total sleep duration in working persons without exercise habits.”
Schedule your brisk walks for early evenings or the morning as some people find that it revs them up so much that they have difficulty falling asleep. To relax your body and clear your mind, you can go for an easy-paced, late-night stroll before your bedtime.
7. Extends Life
Regular aerobic exercise like walking can lead to a longer life. A study by the University of Michigan Medical School recorded that ” those who exercise regularly in their fifties and sixties are 35 percent less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts.”
8 more research-backed health benefits
- Cuts Alzheimer’s disease risk by 50 percent over five years
- Reduces colon cancer risk by 31 percent in women
- Reduces glaucoma risk by reducing the pressure inside the eye
- 54 percent lower risk of heart attack with two to four hours of fast walking per week.
- 30-40 percent less risk of coronary heart disease with three hours of brisk walking per week.
- 54 percent lower death rates for type 2 diabetics who walk three to four hours per week.
- Significantly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Increases heart and respiratory fitness in adults with type 2 diabetes.