Posted July 08, 2021 by Charles A. Zonfa, MD, FACOG | Chief Medical Office
Think walking isn’t good exercise? Think again. Brisk walking boosts your physical and mental health in so many ways.
Walking increases your cardiovascular fitness, strengthens bones, muscles and joints, and reduces excess body fat, while decreasing your risk of developing conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and some cancers. In addition, a regular walking routine has been shown to boost moods, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve sleep.
The key is to take a brisk walk for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Whether you’re walking to work, the store or joining a friend in a hiking club, challenge yourself to reach 10,000 steps a day.
Walking is a great moderate-intensity exercise for everyone because it’s free, it’s easy to do and doesn’t require any equipment.
Still not convinced walking is one of the easiest ways to maintain a healthy weight and stay strong? SummaCare discusses 7 reasons why you should get out there and put one foot in front of the other. No more excuses; it’s a matter of your health!
Strengthens your heart and improves circulation. Walking improves cardiovascular fitness. Like other muscles, your heart gets stronger with regular physical activity. Studies show walking wards off heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels, blood pressure and vascular inflammation. Therefore, it reduces your risk for cardiac events, such as a heart attack or stroke.
In addition, walking lowers your blood sugar levels and risk for diabetes.
What’s more, walking promotes more efficient blood flow and lowers your risk for blood clots. Your calf muscles act as a venous pump to push blood from the feet and legs back up to the heart.
Promotes weight loss. Walking burns calories to help you maintain or lose weight. On average, a brisk, 30-minute walk burns 200 calories. You can burn even more calories if you choose a path with hills or alternate between faster and slower paces. A regular walking routine boosts your metabolism and can lead to weight loss and a lower BMI over time.
Strengthens muscles. With each step, you engage your quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes and abdominal muscles. All of these muscles have to work together to provide stability and support, strengthening and conditioning the muscles in your lower body.
Increases joint support. Walking helps to lubricate and protect the joints, including your knees and hips. It improves your range of motion by increasing blood flow to tight areas and helps strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints. With strong muscles, pressure gets shifted from your joints to your muscles. In fact, walking has been shown to ease pain for those with arthritis.
Strengthens and maintains bone density. Walking can help stop the loss of bone mass, especially for those with osteoporosis. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, so when you walk it makes your bones work harder, making them stronger with each step. It also improves your balance and coordination, so it can help prevent falls and related fractures.
Improves sleep. Studies show walking on a regular basis can improve your sleep quality at night. People who walk regularly are less likely to have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Exercise naturally boosts melatonin, the sleep hormone, and exposing yourself to natural light in the morning by walking outside can promote a strong circadian rhythm. Plus, walking helps reduce stress, which is a major contributor to insomnia.
Lowers stress and improves mood. Walking releases natural chemicals in your brain called endorphins, which reduces stress and improves your mood. In fact, studies show walking can help reduce anxiety and depression, especially when walking is performed outside in nature.
Walking offers so many health benefits, while posing one of the lowest risks of injury of any exercise. So get up off the couch and take steps to improve your health today.
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