“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.”
- George Trevelyan
What if there was a miracle pill that if you took it each day would give you a 20% less chance of getting cancer, a 30% less chance of getting heart disease, a 50% less chance of diabetes, and would help you live longer and healthier into old age. How much would you pay for it? Wouldn’t you insist your children, parents, and loved ones take it, too?
Well, according to some health studies published in major medical journals an hour a day of walking will reap all of these health benefits for you.
Millions of people seem to think that if they can’t join a spa and spend a lot of time working out, they might as well forget about health benefits from exercise. Yet, that isn’t true. Dr. Russell Pate of the University of South Carolina says:
“I think we have to officially sanction the idea that a nice, comfortable walk around the block after dinner is a very desirable thing to do.”
There’s no doubt about it, walking is good for you. It’s good for your heart, it’s good for your lungs, it’s good for the muscle and bone growth and it’s good for your feeling of wellbeing!
Walking is one of the most beneficial forms of “daily activity” and type of exercise which we can do that carries the least risk! Just about all of us can do it; we all know how to do it; we can do it almost everywhere, anytime, and as a form of exercise it offers us lots of variety. What more can we ask for?
So, here are ten reasons to take a walk:
1. General Health And Longevity
Regular participation in physical activity like walking is associated with reduced mortality rates for both older and younger adults. In other words, walkers live longer!
In particular, walking has a high impact on cardiovascular disease. Fit and active individuals have around half the risk of cardiovascular disease compared to unfit inactive people. This level of risk is similar to smoking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol in causing heart disease.
Fit walkers are less likely to fall and suffer injuries such as hip fractures because the bones are strengthened; less likely to sustain injury because joints have a better range of movement and muscles are more flexible; less prone to depression and anxiety; tend to be good sleepers; and are better able to control body weight.
For general health, a total of 30 minutes of brisk walking, preferably all days of the week, are recommended by experts.
2. Lose Weight
Control of body weight occurs when the calories taken in as food are balanced with the calories expended through walking and other physical activities. The key issue for weight control is to maximize the total volume of calories used, and to combine this with healthy eating.
We can break it up by adding an extra block, an extra flight of stairs, a longer walk to the car. Do we live in an urban area? Let’s go to the store instead of ordering in! Do we have a problem with evening snacking? Let’s take a walk!
Walking at a moderate pace burns calories and if we walk for longer periods of time even slowly, we will burn more body fat. Our body uses fat for its slow burning energy requirements. Think a few calories here and there won’t add up? Think again! An extra 100 calories a day burned by walking can amount to a 10lbs weight loss in one year without really trying.
3. Mental Health
Walking has been shown to improve self esteem, relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improve mood. Walking, particularly in pleasant surroundings, and with other people, offers many opportunities for relaxation and social contact.
Fresh air, a few deep breaths, and a break in our indoor environment can bring more oxygen to our brain, give a glow to our skin and give us a few minutes to de-stress!
4. Gain Aerobic Power
Regular exercise carried out three times a week for 30 minutes or more at the right intensity will result in increases of aerobic power.
Even 10-minute brisk walks can increase fitness, provided that they are brisk enough. One study at Loughbrough University found that women walking continuously for 30 minutes 5 days a week had almost identical increases in fitness as women who split their 30 minutes into three 10-minute walks. Perhaps even more encouraging was that the short walkers lost more weight and reported greater decreases in waist circumference than the long walkers.
5. Reduce Risk of Glaucoma and Cancer
Dr. Michael Passo of Oregon Health Sciences University has found that starting a walking program lowered the intraocular pressure of 40 sedentary individuals, which decreased their risk of glaucoma.
Also a large study of 80,000 men and women in Scandinavia in the 1970’s uncovered the role of walking and other exercise in preventing colon cancer. Moderate recreational activity was enough to bring a 40% reduction in the risk of colon cancer among women. The theory is that walking, by speeding up the speed up the passage of ingested foods through the colon, gives less time for carcinogens in the food to be in contact with the intestinal lining.
6. Lowers Blood Sugar
Researchers have found that hills are good both ways. Uphill gives you a cardiovascular workout and lowers triglycerides, but downhill has now proven superior for lowering blood sugar levels. Do either to reduce LDL cholesterol. Dr. Heinz Drexel reported his findings to the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in November, 2004.
7. Walk Away From Colds
Can regular walking keep you from suffering the misery of colds? Studies suggest that it can.
One study of 50 women divided them into a group who walked briskly for 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week, and a control group that did not exercise. The walkers experienced half as many colds as the control group. The walkers also showed an increase in natural killer cells, immune system cells that attack bacteria and viruses.
8. Boost Energy
Walking require energy, as does everything. In addition to expending energy, however, physical activity also gives people increased energy throughout the entire day.
The immune system, too, gets a big boost from regular walking. A healthy immune system helps fight diseases, and speeds recovery from all kinds of injuries. The less time a person is ill, the more energy a person has to spend on living well.
9. Feel Calmer and Sleep Soundly
Physical activity like walking can make you feel more alert during the day, but it also makes you feel calmer and sleep more soundly. When people are active, their body temperature rises and warms their insides. This soothes the body, like a warm bath, and causes a person to feel calmer. This feeling, along with the lower anxiety and stress and physical benefits of walking, helps a person to sleep soundly at night.
10. Endorphins: The Natural High
When a person is physically active or is brisk walking for a certain period of time - about 20 minutes or longer - the body releases endorphins, proteins in the brain that act as the body’s natural pain reliever. When endorphins are released, a person may experience a feeling of euphoria. Many people enjoy this feeling and look forward to the natural high they get from keeping physically fit.
Whatever your reasons for walking, it offers many benefits to improve your life. And because it is low impact, walking can have a definite advantage over such activities as running and aerobics. As a result, there is less chance of injury to joints and muscles. Indeed, walking is the number one activity recommended by fitness experts.
So, for your well-being, take a walk!