Do you suffer from joint pain, heart problems, stress, depression, or obesity? Then, try walking to beat all your health problems. Because according to the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, walking helps reduce the risk of all chronic diseases (1). In fact, most health professionals prefer walking over running as it is a low-impact exercise that goes easy on your heart and joints. Read on find out about the 20 health benefits of walking daily and get going, doesn’t matter if you are 8 or 80!
Walking helps to improve your heart health. Irish scientists have reported that walking is the best exercise for sedentary individuals, especially adults, to reduce the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases (2). In another study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, scientists confirmed that men and women of 65 years of age or older, who walked for at least 4 hours every week, were at less risk of cardiovascular disease (3). So, make sure to walk for 4 hours a week to keep heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke at bay.
Walking is a great exercise and helps you lose weight. American scientists designed an experiment where obese patients walked together (a concept known as the ‘walking bus’) to their destinations in and around the city. After 8 weeks, their weight was checked, and more than 50% of the participants lost an average of 5 pounds (4). Therefore, it might be a good idea to start walking to and from your nearby destinations, instead of driving your car.
Walking can also help lower blood pressure. Researchers from Wakayama Medical College, Japan conducted an experiment on individuals with mild hypertension, where 83 participants walked 10,000 steps per day for 12 weeks. At the end of 12 weeks, they showed a significant drop in blood pressure and increased stamina (5). Even if you are unable to complete 10,000 steps per day, you should walk for at least 60 minutes every day to keep your blood pressure levels in check.
Cancer has claimed over a million lives. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the causes of cancer, and this is where walking every day can help you. Scientists have found that walking can help in weight loss, thereby reducing the risk of cancer. Walking has been found to be helpful for those undergoing cancer treatment by reducing the side effects of chemotherapy (6). It can also lower the risk of breast cancer.
Believe it or not, walking can actually increase your intelligence. Walking helps to supply the brain with the required amounts of oxygen and glucose, which helps it function better. It also decreases the levels of LDL cholesterol, which clogs arteries, and hence reduces the risk of stroke (7). So, walking can help improve blood circulation and the brain and cellular functions.
A sedentary lifestyle has led to an exponential growth of one of the most common diseases – diabetes. Scientists recommend 3,000 to 7,500 steps a day to treat type 2 diabetes and suggest that you sit less and be more active (8). Walking every day can help control the blood sugar levels, which, in turn, can help you prevent type 2 diabetes.
Your bones tend to become weaker as you age. But the good news is you can strengthen your bones by walking regularly. This low-impact exercise prevents loss of bone density, thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis, fracture, and injury. Since bones determine our framework, stronger and healthier bones help to improve posture, stamina, and balance (9). Walking can also prevent arthritis and reduce the accompanying pain.
Like bones, you can also experience loss of muscles as you age. Here too, walking can help you by strengthening and toning your muscles and preventing muscle loss. Regular walking can strengthen your leg and back muscles (10).
Improper digestion can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and even colon cancer. Therefore, it is very important that you keep your digestive system healthy. Apart from maintaining good food habits and drinking water, you should also walk to improve digestion. Walking after meals is great. It helps you reduce weight and also supports your digestive system (11) (12).
Your body’s immune system should function properly at all times to prevent infections, diseases, and death. Walking is a great way to boost your immunity. Walking at least 30 minutes a day can help bolster the activities of the immune cells, namely, the B-cells, T-cells, and the natural killer cells (13). It helps release the WBCs at a faster rate, thereby allowing your body to heal quickly (14).
Dementia is a neurological condition characterized by gradual loss of memory and cognitive functions. It can eventually make you unable to perform day-to-day functions and totally dependent on others. Walking regularly at a moderate pace can help prevent dementia, improve memory, and build confidence in older individuals (15).
Walking can also increase your lung capacity. When you walk, you breathe in more oxygen as compared to when you are stationary. This exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide at a larger volume can help increase your lung capacity, thereby increasing your stamina and exercise performance (16). The best part is, you don’t even have to run. A medium-paced 60-minute walk (with breaks, of course!) can do the trick.
A study conducted with 17,000 Harvard graduates showed that students who walked for at least 30 minutes every day lived longer than those who were sedentary (17). Walking may or may not activate the telomerase enzyme, which is responsible for maintaining DNA integrity, an important factor in aging, but it helps prevent all age-related problems (18).
Walking in the morning is a great opportunity for your body to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for bone strength and it prevents cancer, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes type 1. So, it is very important that you get at least 10-15 minutes of morning sun exposure, and walking is the best way to do so.
Walking can help reduce the stress levels by improving circulation, which, in turn, provides nutrients and oxygen to the cells. It also stimulates the nervous system receptors and decreases the production of the stress hormones (19). Breathing in and out while walking also helps to breathe out the tension.
Several scientific studies have proven that physical activity can help prevent depression. Walking is highly recommended by physicians and psychiatrists to help uplift mood. So, if you are feeling depressed or sad, you should just take a walk and get some fresh air to feel better (20).
Japanese scientists have found that walking can help improve the memory of older patients (21). Physical exercise helps to increase the size of hippocampus while a sedentary lifestyle shrinks the hippocampus, leading to memory loss (22). So, walk every day to give your memory power a serious boost.
Walking regularly can also make you more active and energetic. This, in turn, can increase your productivity. Be it at school or work, your memory, agility, and your reaction to different stimuli will significantly change for the better.
Walking also helps to increase your creativity. It helps calm your nerves and relaxes your brain. When you walk, you don’t have the pressure of a deadline or meeting a certain expectation. This helps your brain to think strategically and in a more sorted way. So, if you are stuck with a problem, take a walk!
Walking can help you build social support and make new friends who will encourage you to walk every day. You will look forward to meeting them. Also, you can walk to support a social cause. At the end of the day, you will be filled with positive energy and peace.
It is clear from this list that walking can improve your health in many ways, but what preparations do you need to make if you want to start walking? Explained in the next section.
You need few basic things to walk. Here’s the list:
If you are new to walking, you cannot walk for long distances immediately. So, break your walking routine. Start by walking 10 minutes every day. Gradually increase this duration to 30 minutes a day. Then, you can walk 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening. You should also gradually increase the pace of your walking. When you are comfortable enough, you can try to walk 10,000 steps a day. Take necessary breaks in between. And, of course, keep yourself hydrated.
Now that we have made your job easier by telling you about all the health benefits of walking, what you need to go on a walk, and how to stay motivated, wear your walking shoes and go for a walk that will do you more good than watching TV at home. Good luck!