Did you know walking regularly is one of the best exercise programs you can do? We tend to think of running and other high-intensity exercises as the best for overall health and weight loss, but exercise doesn’t have to be intense to be beneficial. In fact, studies show that walking briskly can improve your health just as much as running.
In a study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division, researchers looked at the benefits of vigorous-intensity running compared to the effects of moderate-intensity walking over a period of six years. They found that both exercises led to similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, as well as the risk of heart disease. The more activity participants got each week, the more their health benefits increased.
Walking is one of the easiest, most affordable ways to get our bodies moving. Walking requires no special skills or equipment — other than a good pair of shoes. You can do it almost anywhere. Walking is also safe, and has the lowest dropout rate of any form of exercise. It’s simple, easy to stick with, and it works.
Below are just a few of the benefits that make walking so great.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of activity every day, but it doesn’t have to be all at once. Many people don’t have the time to set aside half an hour or more each day to exercise. If you’re busy — like most of us — break up your walks into 10- or 15-minute increments Try taking a walk during your lunch break and another after dinner. A brisk walk outside can serve as an afternoon pick-me-up when you’re feeling tired. Get more steps in by walking around the house while talking on the phone, or walking on the treadmill while you watch TV.
Unlike a trip to the gym, you can go on walks while simultaneously taking care of other daily tasks. Get your exercise in while walking the dog, spending time with your family at a park, or shopping at the mall. You can increase your steps by parking farther away from your destination and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. If you live close enough, you can even walk to work. If you take the bus, get off at an earlier stop and walk the rest of the way. Adding short bursts of walking to your daily routine can be much easier than trying to schedule lengthy exercise sessions.
The cost of using a gym can add up to hundreds of dollars a year — if not more — but walking can be done just about anywhere and without an expensive gym membership. Additionally, the only equipment you need is a good pair of walking shoes. If you can replace a drive to the grocery store or a friend’s house with a brisk walk instead, you’ll also save money on fuel. Walking is a very cost-effective way to be more active.
Walking provides many physical health benefits. One of the less widely recognized advantages is that walking can help curb food cravings. Studies have shown that even a 15-minute walk can reduce cravings for sweets such as chocolate and other sugary snacks. Walking can also reduce the urge to eat during stressful situations.
Any type of physical activity can help reduce the risk of cancer, but walking in particular may have anti-cancer benefits. Studies have found that women who walked seven or more hours a week have a 14 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or less per week. Walking provided these benefits even for women with risk factors for breast cancer, such as taking hormonal medication or being overweight.
Consistent and frequent walking can help boost your immune function. A study of more than 1,000 men and women found that people who walk at least 20 minutes a day, at least five days a week, took 43 percent fewer sick days from work than people who exercised only once a week. Additionally, if the people who walked more did become ill, they were sick for a shorter period of time and their symptoms were generally milder in comparison.
The great thing about walking is that it’s easy to get started! Start adding more steps to your routine, even if it’s just a few extra minutes per day. Set a realistic goal just for today, and increase your activity level as your physical fitness improves. Find an approach that you like, whether that’s going for a walk with a friend, or using your treadmill time to binge-watch a new show.
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