7 Biggest Benefits of Walking to Improve Your Health

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“If every day you practice walking and sitting meditation and generate the energy of mindfulness and concentration and peace, you are a cell in the body of the new Buddha. This is not a dream but is possible today and tomorrow.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the most powerful ways to lose weight, stay healthy, and live longer is so shockingly simple, even a toddler can do it. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. “Walking has always been my main source of cardio, and except for when I was pregnant, I’ve been the same weight my entire life!” says fitness expert Denise Austin. The key is to strut for, ideally, at least 30 minutes a day, says Melina B. Jampolis, M.D., author of The Doctor on Demand Diet. And whether you decide to lace up your sneakers and walk to work, pair up with a friend, or join a hiking club, walking can do everything from lowering your blood pressure and reducing your risk of chronic diseases to making your brain sharper and your heart happier.

“Walking is so simple that everyone can do it,” says Austin. “Plus it has tremendous benefits, from supporting a healthy immune system to boosting your metabolism to strengthening your joints, muscles, and bones—not to mention it’s amazing for stress relief and enjoying a little ‘me time.'” Here’s what else you can expect when you start walking for just a half hour every day—that’s less time than it takes to listen to one album on your ear buds!—most days of the week.

1. Walking will improve your mood.

A glass of wine or a square (or three) of dark chocolate can blunt the edge of a rough day—but going for a walk is a zero-calorie strategy that offers the same perk, says Dr. Jampolis.

“Research shows that regular walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you’ll experience a decrease in anger and hostility,” she says, especially when you’re going for a stroll through some greenery or soaking in a bit of sunlight. This can be particularly helpful during the colder months, when seasonal depression spikes.

Finally, when you make your walks social—you stride with, say, your partner, a neighbor, or a good friend—that interaction helps you feel connected, says Dr. Jampolis, which can make you feel happier.

2. Helps you burn calories and lose weight.

“As you continue to walk, you may notice your pants begin to fit more loosely around your midsection, even if the number on the scale isn’t moving much,” says Dr. Jampolis. “That’s because regular walking can help improve your body’s response to insulin, which can help reduce belly fat.

Itching to up your calorie burn? When walking outside, plan a route that includes hills, alternate between speed walking and a slower pace, and challenge yourself to walk the same routes on different days to see if you can beat your previous times, says Austin. “And always challenge yourself to get at least 10,000 steps a day, even if it means taking laps around your living room at night to hit your goal,” she says.

Ariel Iasevoli, a personal trainer at Crunch gyms in New York City, adds that walking every day is one of the most effective low-impact ways to mobilize fat and positively alter body composition. “Daily walking increases metabolism by burning extra calories and by preventing muscle loss, which is particularly important as we get older,” says Iasevoli. The best part? You don’t have to slog it out on a treadmill at the gym to see these benefits. “One of my clients reduced her body fat by 2% in just one month by walking home from work each day, which was just under a mile,” she says.

"One of my clients reduced her body fat by 2% in just one month by walking home from work each day, which was just under a mile," says one personal trainer.

The secret to walking off the weight: intervals, says Michele Staten, a walking coach and author of Prevention’s Walk Your Way to Better Health. “Interval walking really cranks up your after burn—the calories you burn long after your official walk is over,” Stanten says. To add intervals, warm up for 3 minutes. Then spend 25 minutes alternating between 1 minute of walking almost as fast as you can go and 1 minute of brisk walking (aiming for a 6 on an intensity scale of 1 to 10). Cool down for 2 minutes.

3. Can reduce your risk of chronic disease.

The statistics are impressive: The American Diabetes Association says walking lowers your blood sugar levels and your overall risk for diabetes. Researchers at the University of Boulder Colorado and the University of Tennessee found that regular walking lowered blood pressure by as much as 11 points and may reduce the risk of stroke by 20 to 40%. One of the most cited studies on walking and health, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that those who walked enough to meet physical activity guidelines had a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with those who did not walk regularly.

“The physical benefits of walking are well documented,” says Scott Danberg, director of fitness at Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami. For disease prevention, longer walks are key, says Stanten. Include one hour-long walk at least once or twice a week, she says.

4. Other goals will start to seem more reachable.

When you become a regular walker, you will have established a regular routine—and when you have a routine, you are more likely to continue with the activity and take on new healthy behaviors. “I firmly believe that walking regularly can help you to accomplish other goals you set your mind to,” says Kim Evans, a personal trainer and daily walker.

5. Can help you feel more creative.

Whether you’re feeling stuck at work or you’ve been searching for a solution to a tricky problem, research shows it’s a good idea to get moving: According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition, going for a walk can spark creativity. “Researchers administered creative-thinking tests to subjects while seated and while walking and found that the walkers thought more creatively than the sitters,” says Dr. Jampolis.

6. It can even help you live longer!

Ever wonder how people from Blue Zones are able to live to 100? Their secret to a longer and healthier life involves walking and getting outside. A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed that adults between the ages of 70 and 90 who left the house and were physically active lived longer than those who didn’t. Staying active also helps you stay connected to loved ones and friends who can provide emotional support, which is especially important as you age.

7. You'll sleep better at night.

If you work out regularly, you know that you’ll sleep better at night. That’s because sleep naturally boosts the effects of melatonin, the sleep hormone. A 2019 study from Sleep found that postmenopausal women who do light to moderate intensity physical activity snooze better at night than those who are sedentary. Walking also helps reduce pain and stress, which can cause sleep disturbances.

Like what you just read? We found this article and many more encouraging articles about health, fitness, food, nutrition, sex and more. You’ll love their magazine! Go here to subscribe. Read more from the original author of this article Meghan Rabbitt here

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