Walking may seem a little too easy, but it’s so full of benefits. It’s an incredible form of aerobic exercise that engages almost every muscle in your body. As a result, it promotes health, enhances fitness, and prevents chronic conditions. Here are the Surprising Health Benefits of Walking Everyday and why you should incorporate them into your daily routine.
10 Health Benefits of Walking Everyday
1. Walking will strengthen your heart
Walking is a form of physical exercise that strengthens the heart, increases the heart rate, and promotes better circulation throughout the body. Good circulation increases nutrient and oxygen delivery to different body tissues, including heart muscles leading to a healthy and strong heart.
Research shows that walking for approximately 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can lower your risk of developing stroke and heart disease by 35 percent.
Furthermore, from a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, walking that met the physical activity score led to a 30 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart attack. At the same time, those who didn’t engage in regular walking had an increased risk for the same cardiovascular events.
2. It may increase your energy levels
Tired all day? Regular walks can help boost your energy levels, helping you feel more alive and focused.
This is because walking increases blood circulation throughout the body, which promotes oxygen delivery to the cells.
Oxygen supports the mitochondria’s energy production, thus increasing your energy levels. Walking also increases the production of endorphins, brain chemicals associated with better mood and increased energy.
A 2012 study published in The Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that walking increases energy expenditure, while a 2010 study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that aerobic exercise improves self-reported feelings of energy and reduces fatigue. And if you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up, try taking a 10-minute walk outside or around your office—it’s been shown to improve mood within minutes.
3. It may lower blood pressure
Walking is one of many ways to get exercise and lower your blood pressure. Some studies have shown that people who walk on a regular basis have a lower risk for developing hypertension, while those who live sedentary lifestyles are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
Regular walking helps strengthen your heart and makes it pump blood more efficiently and with ease. It also reduces blood vessel stiffness and increases dilatation which allows blood to flow more freely.
Those with high blood pressure and who don’t exercise often may be able to reduce their dosage or even take themselves off medications entirely through regular exercise. Get your heart pumping with a brisk walk around your neighborhood or local park to reduce stress, improve your mood, and lower blood pressure.
While walking at a moderate pace might be too strenuous for those who are out of shape, taking smaller steps and finding a slower pace can help get you started. Use a pedometer to track how many steps you take each day and challenge yourself to increase that number on a daily basis.
A Framingham Heart Study found that a thousand steps taken daily could lower your systolic blood pressure by 45 points.
4. Walking reduces stress and tension
Walking pumps up your feel-good chemical endorphins, which improves mood and stimulates relaxation.
Walkers have lower rates of depression than non-walkers—probably because walking releases neurotransmitters that are linked to a positive mood. Studies show that 30 minutes of daily walking can help relieve symptoms of anxiety and mild depression. If you want to boost your mood even further, try adding some hills into your route for an extra challenge.
A recent study from Indiana University found that walkers who added inclines to their routes had more energy and felt better about themselves at the end of their walks than those who didn’t. The researchers think it’s because going uphill requires more effort, which in turn helps improve self-esteem.
Nonetheless, research says even a stroll at a comfortable pace can relieve tension and promote stress-relieving benefits.
In a study to determine the effects of exercise on mood, participants were randomly selected to walk, meditate, or sit for ten minutes. Based on the findings, brisk walking and meditation improved mood compared to the sitting group.
5. Walking may improve abdominal obesity
Walking increases metabolism, which helps burn extra calories, especially fat on your midsection.
In one study, obese women participated in a walking exercise of 50-70 minutes a day three days a week for 12 weeks, while another controlled group of obese women maintained their sedentary lifestyle.
At the end of the study, the exercise group reduced both visceral and subcutaneous fat, while the controlled group experienced no change.
The exercise group also experienced improved insulin sensitivity.
Researchers believe that increasing your speed for small bouts of time may offer significant results instead of a slow walk for one hour. You can have intervals of fast-paced walking (as fast as you can go) followed by brisk walking for another minute, then cooling down for about 2 minutes.
6. Walking may boost your immune system
Walking is the easiest way to help your body stay safe and fight off infections.
According to research, walking increases the number of immune cells in the body, thus helping you fight off infections. And even if you get sick, research shows that those who walk regularly have a quicker recovery rate than those who don’t.
In one study, those that took a daily walk at a moderate speed for 30-45 minutes during the flu season experienced 45 percent fewer upper respiratory tract infections and fewer sick days.
7. It may stimulate your digestive system
You’re probably aware that walking is good for your heart and lungs, but did you know it can also improve digestion? Exercising regularly helps your body move food through your digestive tract more efficiently, which in turn reduces constipation.
Moreover, muscle contractions from exercise increase bowel peristalsis. For these reasons, regular walking may help reduce bloating and constipation. And if you experience diarrhea or loose stools, walking might be just what your gut needs to return to normalcy.
In addition to improving digestive function, walking has been shown to relieve other common GI complaints such as abdominal pain and nausea. This is because exercise increases blood flow throughout your body—including to areas of your gastrointestinal tract responsible for muscle contraction.
8. May relieve joint pain
Walking increases blood flow to your joint cartilage, which provides it the needed nutrients to cushion and protect the bones. Increased circulation also nourishes and strengthens the surrounding muscle, helping protect the joint even more.
Moreover, walking massages your joints, increasing lubrication and decreasing stiffness and pain, especially in conditions such as arthritis.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that walking for an hour each week may help alleviate joint pain in individuals with lower-body joint pain.
9. Improves memory
Research has shown that a walking program can help slow memory loss in older adults. In fact, three sessions per week for six months helped reverse memory loss in sedentary adults. Another study found that regular walking improved both immediate and delayed memory recall in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). It’s thought that aerobic exercise like walking improves blood flow to your brain, which is essential for keeping your mind sharp as you age.
10. Walking may promote longevity
According to research, walking at an average pace may reduce your risk of overall death by 20 percent, while walking at a faster pace results in a 24 percent reduction.
11. Promotes better sleep
Strolling on a daily basis is also great for helping you fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly. Multiple studies have shown that people who walk for exercise report sleeping better than those who don’t.
A 2009 study published in Sleep Medicine revealed that regular exercisers were 27 percent less likely to report short sleep duration as a problem. What’s more, those who walked six or more hours per week reported fewer symptoms of insomnia.
Other research has shown that walking can also promote better sleep quality. In one 2010 study published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, researchers found that people who were more physically active at work reported less disturbed sleep. Research recommends walking for at least 30 minutes per day to improve sleep quality.
12. Promotes longevity
You’re not likely to live as long if you sit all day and never move. Prolonged sitting has been linked to a variety of conditions, including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. If you don’t have time for a full workout, at least make sure to get up and walk around during your break. Every little bit helps!
A huge study from Harvard that tracked more than 100,000 people for 10 years revealed that those who walked 3 hours per week (about 21 minutes per day) lived significantly longer than non-walkers.
Another study found that men who walked every day for more than 20 minutes lowered their risk of premature death by almost half compared to those who didn’t.
On the other hand, exercise boosts health in various ways, including increasing your heart rate and strengthening your muscles—and studies show there are plenty of benefits to both. With a stronger heart, you can pump more blood with each beat. You also become better at clearing out oxygen-poor blood from your coronary arteries, which boosts overall health and longevity.
Tips to Get You Started
- Start slow but aim to walk as fast as you can, at least 30 minutes daily or most days of the week.
- Lengthen your back
- Relax your shoulders by keeping them down and back
- Step from heel to tore
- Swig your arms
- Engage your core
- Ensure comfortable footwear
- Seek company
- Distribute your walks throughout the day
- Join a walking program or group
5 things to avoid when walking for exercise (so you don’t injure yourself)
Walking is one of the best exercises you can do to stay fit and healthy, but if you’re not doing it right, you could be hurting yourself more than helping yourself! Here are five common mistakes you should avoid when walking for exercise.
Not wearing proper shoes
Whether you’re taking a brisk stroll or hitting the gym, it’s important to wear proper footwear. Wearing flat-soled shoes can lead to knee pain and shin splints, while high heels can cause stress fractures. Look for comfortable shoes that are designed with your activity in mind!
Walking too fast
Walking is a great way to get regular physical activity. But if you’re going too fast, you could cause yourself some major issues. Walking too fast causes your body and joints to move differently from how they are intended, which can lead to injury. When you walk slowly, on the other hand, your body moves more naturally and is protected from injury as a result. Walking slower than 2 miles per hour is optimal; anything faster puts unnecessary strain on your knees and ankles.
Avoid long strides
While taking long strides might seem like a good idea—after all, you’re covering more ground with each step. But that increased speed can take its toll on your body. Not only does over-striding wear out your joints faster, but it also puts stress on your spine and soft tissues in general.
Don’t look down
Slouching affects your ability to breathe properly, which can cause a lack of oxygen to reach your brain and other vital organs. This makes you feel faint and lightheaded, before any actual exertion.
So if you want to walk safely, do it while standing tall with your shoulders back. Better yet, be sure to incorporate some exercises that target posture into your fitness routine: think push-ups, planks, or side-bends.
Water is key
Staying hydrated is essential, especially if you’re trying to shed a few pounds. Since water has no calories, it also helps prevent hunger pangs from sneaking up on you. Don’t rely on diet beverages; instead, carry your own bottle of water and sip as you walk.
Walking is the easiest yet overly beneficial form of aerobic exercise when done well.
It may increase your energy levels, strengthen your heart, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, aid fat loss, improve memory, relieve joint pain, improve digestive health, boost your immunity, and enhance longevity.
However, a variation in speed may offer different results. For instance, a moderate pace or brisk walking at your maximum is more effective than slow walking.
A few things to keep you on the right track include ensuring you have comfortable shoes and aim to walk at least 30 minutes daily or most days of the week.
And to keep you motivated, consider joining a walking group or finding someone, whether it’s a friend or a family member, to offer you some company.
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