10 HEALTH BENEFITS OF WALKING
Walking is a great way to improve your health by losing excess weight. Brisk walking for short periods is an effective way of improving cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure.Walking also helps to tone the muscles, strengthen bones and increase endurance.
If you are planning to add walking to your routine, here are some helpful pointers. Start with brief walks each day until you are comfortable with it. Then gradually increase the time spent walking each day until you reach your goal. You should aim to walk at least 30 minutes daily, but if possible, extend up to 45-60 minutes.
Walking is a good exercise that promotes general well-being. It is an aerobic activity that helps relieve stress. So besides being great for your physical health, it also takes care of your mental health.
Benefits Of Walking On Health
Walking is very beneficial for your overall health. Some major benefits of walking that may inspire you to add it to your daily routine are listed below.
Controls Blood Pressure
With the growing sedentary lifestyle and fast food intake, many people are suffering from high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a precursor for multiple problems involving the eyes, heart, brain, and other body parts. So, it is essential to control your blood pressure before it leads to hypertensive complications.
People who walk 10,000 steps daily see an average reduction of blood pressure by around 13 mm Hg. Both systolic and diastolic blood pressure values decrease.. Furthermore, your resting heart rate also decreases.
Reduces Cholesterol Levels
Intake of fat-rich food and lack of exercise may increase the level of cholesterol in your body. High cholesterol is dangerous to health and can also affect those who appear thin.
Walking raises the good cholesterol or HDL (High-density lipoproteins) and lowers the bad cholesterol or LDL (Low-density lipoproteins). A brisk 30-minute walk thrice per week is enough to raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol.
Glucose control is one of the crucial ways to prevent and control Type 2 diabetes.
Walking helps you burn calories and control blood sugar levels. A brisk 30-minute walk after a meal can result in a decrease in the spike in blood sugar levels. This spike generally occurs about one hour after your meal.
People who have type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes particularly benefit from walking after a meal. People with type 1 diabetes or uncontrolled type 2 diabetes who are on insulin may find it difficult to reduce blood glucose despite increasing insulin use. Such people also benefit from walking.
People on insulin need to take certain precautions to ensure their blood sugar does not drop too low. It is essential that you carry some candy or chocolate in case of hypoglycemia and make sure someone knows about your walking route. Walking can also be helpful for stress-induced hyperglycemia.
Helps Maintain An Optimum Weight
Walking is a great and easy way to maintain an optimum weight. It is also an excellent method for weight loss. A study discovered that 10,000 steps in a day could significantly increase metabolism and burn calories that allow you to lose weight. Furthermore, incorporating moderate to vigorous activity into 3,500 of the 10,000 steps can enhance weight loss.
The amount of calories you lose through walking depends on walking speed, distance covered, the terrain and incline, and your current weight. Faster walking speeds, greater distances, and walking uphill are methods to enhance your weight loss.
However, for the elderly with mobility issues and for those who are happy with their current weight, it is advised to walk at a leisurely pace for around 30 to 45 minutes daily.
Helps Prevent Heart Diseases
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the United States. These diseases can be prevented and managed by increasing physical activity and walking. Intervention studies support the health benefits of walking, showing improvements in clinical biomarkers and investigation quantifiers.
People who walk regularly show a positive change in heart health. A study found that walking more than 4 hours a week can reduce the risk of hospitalization due to cardiovascular disease events. The severity of heart disease reduces and you are less likely to suffer from a stroke.
Walking with guidance or supervision is a cornerstone in rehabilitating those who have recently recovered from a heart attack. In addition, walking helps in many ways to prevent thromboembolic events and plaque formation that can result in ischemic heart disease and chest pain.
Good For Bone Health
Walking is good for your bone health as well. It helps to maintain proper bone density. When your bone density is optimum, it prevents diseases such as pathological fractures and osteoporosis.
Post-menopausal women are particularly at a high risk of osteoporosis and hence are advised walk regularly. Studies have showed that post-menopausal women who walk daily for approximately 1 mile have higher whole-body bone density. This indicates that walking is also effective in slowing the rate of bone loss. In addition, the physical activity maintains skeletal integrity.
The boons of walking on bone mineral density can benefit all, irrespective of gender or age group. Walking also exposes you to more sunlight than when you are indoors. This can help to maintain vitamin D levels in your body.
Improves Endurance and Muscle Strength
Walking improves balance while strengthening muscles that support walking. Walking utilizes muscles of your lower extremities, including muscle groups such as quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus, and calf muscles.
While significant gains are unlikely, walking improves muscle strength and also prevents muscles from shrinking. Muscle shrinkage is also known as sarcopenia, which is associated with aging.
Atrophy is a phenomenon seen in bedridden patients who are unable to walk. Their limbs and muscles become smaller and result in very skinny extremities. To prevent muscle atrophy, it is essential to use your muscles through various forms of physical activities.
Walking increases your endurance and enhances your physical capacity to do more exercises. However, to prevent injuries and strain, wearing proper footwear is essential.
Improves Mental Health
Walking can help boost your mental health. It can help reduce anxiety, depression, and elevate mood. It can also enhance self-esteem and reduce symptoms of social withdrawal. To experience these benefits, aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate-intensity exercises three days a week. You can also break it up into three 10-minute walks.
Qualitative and quantitative research on the relationship between walking and mental health shows a consistent improvement in emotional distress. This is because walking helps to release a biochemical or neurotransmitter known as endorphin. Endorphins play a crucial role in mood regulation. It boosts our mood and lowers stress levels.
Reduction in stress and anxiety can significantly improve the quality of life. In addition, regularly walking outdoors also makes the individual feel calm and decreases the levels of aggressiveness, hostility, and anger.
Being physically active and walking helps lower the risk of clinical depression, and spending more time in nature can also help to quiet the mind. In addition, walking outside gives you a chance to connect with others and will take your mind off from focusing on negative thoughts.
However, a new study published in the Lancet suggests that where you walk matters.
Researchers found that strolling along heavily polluted streets may cancel out many of the benefits of walking.
For Good Sleep
Walking is associated with good quality of sleep. The quality of sleep refers to how rested you feel and how much deep sleep you get. In some individuals the duration of sleep was better.
Walking can help to regulate your circadian rhythm or sleep cycle. The positive effect of walking is more prominent in sleep quality than in sleep duration. Studies show that besides helping you to fall asleep quickly, walking also improves sleep quality.
Potential Role In Cancer Prevention
Physical activity such as walking is connected to gynecologic cancers, including those of the endometrium, ovaries, and cervix. Cancers of the endometrium and ovaries are associated with hormones. Walking can modify the level of hormones circulating in your body and is believed to prevent certain gynecological cancers.
Recreational physical activity also reduces lung cancer. Walking can reduce lung cancer risk by 20-30% for women and 20-50% for men. The more you walk, the more prominent this effect is.
The biological relation between physical activity and lung cancer is improved pulmonary function, reduced concentrations of carcinogenic agents in the lungs, enhanced immunity, reduced inflammation, and enhanced DNA repair function.
Who Should Take Up Walking?
Walking is a form of exercise suitable for all age groups. This form of exercise can be taken up by children and the elderly alike. Walking is recommended for everyone except those with gross disabilities and deformities.
Elderly people, in particular, should take up walking. It is less intensive and does not strain the elderly, who may have several comorbidities. This helps older people who may not be able to perform more strenuous forms of exercise such as weight-lifting, running, and sports.
Walking is economical and does not require any expensive equipment or special location. You do not need to buy a gym membership, dumbbells, or other items. This makes walking accessible for all individuals.
Nonetheless, it is advisable to consult your physician or fitness instructor to find the ideal duration, frequency, and intensity of walking suited for you.
How often should I go for a walk?
The advised frequency and duration of walking differs according to the age of the individual. Research suggests that most adults should walk for half an hour a day. These 30 minute walks should be done 5 days a week. You can either do it in a single continuous bout or break it up into three short 10 minute stretches. Given the rising use of pedometers and devices that count your steps, there has been an attempt to give a definite number of steps to strive for. The average number of steps walked in 30 minutes of continuous walking is 10,000. Hence, healthy adults with no significant health risk or mobility issues are advised to walk 10,000 steps per day. People tend to walk more when they are told to walk a certain number of steps as opposed to when they are told to walk for a specific duration of time.
In osteoarthritis, 70 minutes of moderate-intensity supervised walking per week is advised. However, people with osteoarthritis have severe pain and other issues if they walk for extended periods. Thus, the safe and feasible method of walking for you should be discussed with your physician.
If you have a busy schedule, you can incorporate walking into your daily routine through various techniques. Walk instead of using vehicles for shorter trips. Take walks after meals. Move around while watching TV or when engaged in desk work.
The Bottom Line
Walking is one of the best ways to stay healthy and active for all ages. So, everyone is advised to walk due to the undisputed positive effect it has on health. It is also inexpensive, time-efficient, and easy to do on your own.
It is essential to assess your lifestyle and consult your physician to determine the duration of walking that is appropriate for you. Then, include regular walks in your daily schedule to stay fit and active, both physically and mentally.
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- Schneider, Patrick L et al. “Effects of a 10,000 steps per day goal in overweight adults.” American journal of health promotion : AJHP vol. 21,2 (2006): 85-9. doi:10.4278/0890-1171-21.2.85
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- Moriello, Carolina et al. “Relationship between muscle strength and functional walking capacity among people with stroke.” Journal of rehabilitation research and development vol. 48,3 (2011): 267-75. doi:10.1682/jrrd.2010.04.0066
- Mau, Martin et al. “Are Long-Distance Walks Therapeutic? A Systematic Scoping Review of the Conceptualization of Long-Distance Walking and Its Relation to Mental Health.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 18,15 7741. 21 Jul. 2021, doi:10.3390/ijerph18157741
- Ducharme, Jamie. "Pollution Could Cancel Out the Health Benefits of Walking, a New Study Says.” Time, Dec. 2017, hitp:/time.com/5049624/air-pollution-effects-walking/. Accessed 10 Dec. 2022
- Cheng, Hui-Ping et al. “Relationship between Walking Activity and Sleep Quality among Community-Dwelling Older Adults.” Journal of community health nursing vol. 39,2 (2022): 127-138. doi:10.1080/07370016.2022.2058199
- Cust, Anne E. “Physical activity and gynecologic cancer prevention.” Recent results in cancer research. Fortschritte der Krebsforschung. Progres dans les recherches sur le cancer vol. 186 (2011): 159-85. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-04231-7_7
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