Need an inexpensive and effective fitness plan? It’s easy… just walk. The health benefits of walking stretch from head to toe. It’s an easy, total-body workout.
Walking benefits ...
• Your brain
Regular strolls are linked to mental sharpness as well as your emotional well-being.
• Your heart
Walking reduces the risk of heart disease, improves blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
• Your complexion
Walking improves circulation to all organs, including your largest organ – your skin.
• Your muscles
From abs to calves, walking uses 5 percent of your body’s muscles.
• Your bones
Weight-bearing exercise builds bone mass, which prevents osteoporosis.
• Your joints and sense of balance
Recent studies suggest that moderate walking helps reduce the pain of arthritis. It also strengthens muscles, tendons, and ligaments that help support balance.
You can walk almost anywhere – anytime. With a good pair of walking shoes, a little time, and determination, you can:
- Have more energy
- Reduce stress
- Tone your muscles
- Lose weight
- Strengthen your bones
- Improve your stamina and fitness
- Lower your risk of chronic diseases
Walking is great for your heart
According to the American Heart Association, walking just 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, improve blood pressure and lipid profiles, improve blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Plus, walking several times a week is as effective as vigorous exercise at reducing a woman’s risk of heart disease, according to the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study.
Walking eases stress
It boosts your brain’s production of endorphins; “feel-good” chemicals that help ease stress and fend off the blues. “Research shows that exercise may be as beneficial as medication for treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety,” said Shelly Szymkowiak-Raczek, DPM, on staff at Ministry Medical Group, Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Walking helps you sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a brisk walk during the day can help you sleep better. Walking may also boost levels of serotonin, which is the feel-good hormone that helps you relax. Walking raises your body’s temperature, which signals the brain to lower your temperature through sleep. (Avoid a walk two hours before bed – that's too late to cool down.)
Walking helps with weight control
Walking 30 minutes a day can prevent weight gain in most people who are physically inactive. Walking is one of the best exercises. It is easy for most people.
Walking helps build stronger bones
Walking outdoors a few times a week helps your body manufacture vitamin D, helping to lower the risk of osteoporosis. One study showed that women who walked one mile a day had 7 more years’ worth of bone mass in reserve.
Walking cuts cancer risk
Walking just a few hours a week reduces breast- and prostate-cancer risk.
Walking is great for your immune system
Walking supports healthy circulation, which in turn enables blood-borne immune cells to reach and kill viruses and bacteria more quickly.
Let’s get started
Gear up. Choose clothes that will keep you dry and comfortable. To stay cool in summer, wear a baseball cap or visor. Don’t forget a high-quality pair of walking shoes.
Start slowly. Warm up by walking slowly for the first 5 minutes. Then, increase your speed to a comfortable pace. Cool down by walking slowly again for the last 5 minutes, and stretch after your walk. “Try to walk at least three times per week,” said Dan Kraeger, MD, Point Sports Medicine, Saint Michael’s Hospital. “Increase your speed or distance gradually to avoid injury. If muscles are sore, wait for them to feel better before returning to the activity.”
Use correct posture. Walk tall. Hold your head up, keep your eyes forward, shoulders down, back, and relaxed. Tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks and fall into a natural stride.
Drink. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your walk.
Be safe. When walking outside, face the traffic. It may give you a few seconds to jump out of the way if necessary. Reflective clothing may help you be seen more easily, but never assume a driver sees you. Be especially aware of drivers who are turning onto to a one-way street; they may not look in both directions.
Choose your route carefully. Partner with a friend when walking and avoid using secluded routes. Change your route and timing occasionally so it’s not predictable. Always tell someone where you plan to be. It is also a good idea to carry self-defense spray to ward off dogs or other threats when walking alone.
Walking helps keep you feeling young
Walking raises your heart rate, boosts circulation, energizes your body, helps you feel refreshed, reduces cholesterol, builds muscle, strengthens bones, and burns fat. In the end, you look and feel younger longer!
Set Your Walking Goal:
Step it up
If you find yourself pressed for time, try adding a few more steps during your daily activities:
- Walk over to visit a neighbor
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator
- Park farther from the store
Ministry Medical Group recommends walking 10,000 steps per day.