Why Walking Is Good For You

Why Walking Is Good For You

Research has shown that walking is by far the most popular exercise activity in the United States. This makes a lot of sense since nearly any able-bodied person can walk. Plus, walking also offers a number of physical and mental health benefits.  

However, it’s important to note that there’s walking for leisure, and then there’s walking with a purpose. While research has shown that “walking, for any reason, makes people feel healthier,” a recent study found that “walking with a purpose makes people walk faster and feel healthier more than walking for leisure.”  

So, if you’re looking to maximize the health benefits of walking, make sure to walk with a purpose, instead of just going for a leisurely stroll.  

10 Benefits Of Walking  

1. Walking May Help You (And Your Loved Ones) Live A Longer Life 

A recent analysis found that 10 minutes of moderate exercise daily, such as brisk walking, would prevent more than 110,000 premature deaths, or about 7% of all deaths, in a typical year. The study also suggests that 20 or 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day could lead to even more lives saved

2. Walking Supports A Healthy Immune System 

A study of over 1,000 men and women found that people who walked at least 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than people who exercised once a week, or less. The study also found that if the people who walked at least 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week got sick, it was for a shorter period of time and their symptoms were milder compared to the people who exercised once a week, or less. 

3. Walking Can Improve Your Mood 

Aerobic exercises, such as walking, gardening, and dancing, have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, according to research. In fact, a study found that exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.  

According to the study, some health benefits from regular exercise are: 

  • Improvement in mood 
  • Stress relief 
  • Increased energy and stamina 
  • Reduced tiredness that can increase mental alertness 
  • Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness 

Meanwhile, a different study, which examined the effects of aerobic exercise and meditation on mood state among young adults, concluded that: “A 10-minute bout of brisk walking and meditation both improved mood state, when compared to an inactive control group. A single bout of walking or meditation may offer suitable strategies to improve mood state among young adults.” 

4. Walking Can Help You Burn Calories, Maintain A Healthy Weight, And Lose Body Fat 

Walking can help you burn calories, and burning calories can help you maintain or lose weight.  

A brisk 30-minute walk can burn up to 200 calories. And over time, calories burned can lead to weight loss. In fact, research shows that regular walking can reduce belly fat.  

Researchers, who looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people in order to determine how much these genes contribute to body weight, discovered that: “Among the study participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were cut in half.”  

And another study found that people who walk more and sit less have a lower body mass index (BMI), which is an indicator of obesity. The study also found that people who took 15,000 or more steps each day tended to have “BMIs in the normal, healthy range.”  

5. Walking Can Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Disease And Stroke 

Reducing Your Risk Of Heart Disease: A study, which tracked residents living in major urban centers in Ontario, Canada, concluded that: “Adults living in less walkable neighborhoods had a higher predicted 10-year cardiovascular disease risk than those living in highly walkable areas.” Therefore, the study suggests that “living in neighborhoods that make it easier to be physically active is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.”  

Reducing Your Risk Of Stroke: Research shows that women who walk at least three hours a week have a 43% lower stroke risk compared to women who are inactive. And the research also revealed that, “Women walkers also have a lower stroke risk than women who do other high-intensity exercise.”  

Another study also found that walking may reduce the risk of stroke in older men. According to the study, “Walking for an hour or two might lower the risk of stroke by as much as one-third, and walking three hours or more daily might cut the risk by two-thirds.” 

6. Walking Can Lower Your Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, And Blood Sugar Levels 

A study found that regular walking was linked to a 7% reduced risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The same study also found that people who walk regularly had a lower fasting blood sugar (glucose), as well as a 12% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Higher blood glucose levels are a risk factor for diabetes.  

7. Walking May Help You Curb Your Sugar Cravings 

A study suggests that short bouts of physical activity, such as walking, may help you curb your sugar cravings. In fact, a research team reported that a 15-minute walk reduces the urge for sugary foods “even in people who are overweight, under pressure, and literally have candy available at the tips of their fingers.”  

8. Walking Can Ease Joint Pain 

Research suggests that walking is one of the best forms of exercise for people with arthritis since aerobic exercise, such as walking, can help ease pain and stiffness from arthritis.  

Researchers, who analyzed four years of data from more than 1,500 older adults who had symptoms of osteoarthritis in their knee, hip, ankle, or foot, found that: “Just one hour a week of brisk walking – or less than 10 minutes a day – allowed older adults to maintain their ability to perform daily tasks like getting dressed or safely cross a street before a traffic light walk signal changed.”  

For people with osteoarthritis knee pain, a study suggests that hitting a step count of 6,000 or more steps per day will benefit them the most.  

And some studies even suggest that walking five to six miles a week may even prevent arthritis from forming at all.   

9. Walking Can Help You Sleep Better 

An “Exercise and Sleep” poll, which surveyed adults between the ages of 23 years old and 60 years old, found that between 76% to 83% of people who engaged in light, moderate, or vigorous exercise reported “very good or fairly good sleep quality,” while only 56% of people who didn’t exercise reported “very good or fairly good sleep quality.”  

A study, “Walk to a better night sleep: Testing the relationship between physical activity and sleep,” suggests that low-impact physical activity, like walking, is positively related to sleep, especially for women. According to the study, “Women who took more steps and were more active reported sleeping better than those less active.” 

Another recent study, “The effect of daily walking exercise on sleep quality in healthy young adults,” also found that: “Daily walking exercise has a significant effect on facilitating sleep quality and sleep components among young adults.”  

Some research also suggests that exercising outdoors in the morning can help regulate your body’s internal body clock and promote sleep at night.  

10. Walking Can Enhance Your Creativity  

A research report, “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking,” found that walking had a large effect on creativity.  

According to the study, “Most of the participants benefited from walking compared with sitting, and the average increase in creative output was around 60%.” 

Walk This Way: How To Walk With Good Walking Form 

When was the last time that you actually thought about how you walk? If it has been a while, here’s a refresher on how to walk with the right technique and good posture.  

To turn your normal walk into a fitness stride

  • Your head should be up – looking forward, not at the ground – as you walk. Also, keep your chin parallel to the ground, and your ears aligned above your shoulders. 
  • Focus on elongating your spine as you walk, and avoid slouching or hunching, which can put stress on your back muscles. As you walk, try to keep your neck, shoulders, and back relaxed.  
  • As you take each step, focus on tightening and engaging your core muscles by pulling your belly button in toward your spine.  
  • Gently swing your arms back and forth at your sides as you walk.  
  • Walk smoothly, rolling your foot from heel to toe.  

Benefits of walking with the right technique and good posture, include:  

  • Improving your balance and stability  
  • Reducing muscle aches and fatigue 
  • Keeping your bones and joints aligned properly 
  • Decreasing wear and tear on your joints, muscles, and ligaments  
  • Preventing back, hip, neck, and leg pain 
  • Reducing your risk of injuries  

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