“Walking is the most underrated, corrective, mind-body and fat-burning exercise available to humans,” said Dana Santas, CNN fitness contributor, certified strength and conditioning specialist and coach. mind-body in professional sports. “I walk every day.”
Here are several things everyone should know about this simple, yet beneficial form of exercise. (Important note: Before starting any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you experience pain.)
A walking diet can help you lose weight; lower your blood pressure and cholesterol; and lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer; among other advantages.
“Walking for Health”, a special report published by Harvard Medical School
, says walking can do more to fight disease and other health problems than almost anything else. An example: walking just two and a half hours a week, or just under 22 minutes a day, could reduce your risk of heart disease by a staggering 30%.
It improves memory and cognitive abilities
Many studies show that walking stimulates the brain.
A study published in an issue of 2010
from the journal Neurology found a link between walking and an increased amount of gray matter in the brain. For example, University of Virginia research
in Charlottesville reported that walking reduced the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older men.
It improves your mood and reduces stress
Walking even a few minutes a day calms anxiety and improves your mood. This is especially true if you are walking outside in nature, a setting that many studies show
is beneficial in multiple ways.
You can strengthen your muscles, bones and joints. Your legs and abdominal muscles are used when you walk, as are your arms if you pump them or use trekking poles.
Your bones also benefit, as walking is a weight-bearing exercise, which is great for strengthening bones. And as you walk, your movement helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to your joint cartilage, which has no direct blood supply.
Walking is energizing, but also helps you sleep
A walking diet helps you increase your energy levels, but don’t worry if you have insomnia. Women aged 50 to 75 who walked for an hour each morning were less likely to experience insomnia than those who did not, according to the Arthritis Foundation
It is a safe and easy exercise for beginners
Some 17% to 50% of Americans are inactive, according to the United States Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention
, with percentages varying by state and territory. For these people, walking is arguably the best cardiorespiratory exercise for them, said Evan Matthews, associate professor of exercise science and physical education at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
“That’s because it’s probably a familiar move, removing the learning curve that occurs with a new form of physical activity and the intimidating factor that many feel at first,” a- he declared. Walking is also safe with one of the lowest exercise injury rates, according to a US Department of Health and Human Services report
Matthews noted that those who don’t have the stamina to complete a 30-minute walk can break it up into smaller chunks, which isn’t easy to do if you have to exercise in a gym. “It could be a 10-minute walk to work, a 10-minute walk on your lunch break, and a 10-minute walk home from work.”
Walking can be a vigorous workout
If you want to increase the intensity, try intervals, where you alternate a few minutes of easy walking with intense bursts. You can also walk with hand or ankle weights, assuming they’re not so heavy that they don’t get in the way, Santa said. Or strap yourself into a loaded backpack. Another option is hill repetitions, where you quickly go up a hill, then easily back down, several times in a row.
You don’t need to take 10,000 steps a day
While many groups boast of walking 10,000 steps a day, research supported by the National Institutes of Health
and published in 2019 found that while older women who took 4,400 steps per day had a lower death rate than those who took only 2,700, the benefit of more daily steps stabilized around 7,500.
Building family ties
Going for a walk with your kids could improve your communication, reduce behavior problems, and even boost academic success. And don’t forget your spouse.
“A man told me that walking saved his marriage,” said Santa Claus.
The couple were on the verge of divorce when his wife began accompanying them on their daily walks.
“They started to communicate in a way they didn’t have before, and it brought them closer together.”
Develop community ties
Studies show that when people walk frequently
around their neighborhood, crime is declining. Regular walks are also a great way to get to know your neighbors, and social connections are important at any age.
The walk is free and can be done anywhere
You don’t need to have an expensive gym membership. Just put on your shoes and walk out the door. If the weather is bad, look for a place like a mall or a school that offers community walking time. You can even walk around your house.
One final thought: While walking is a great form of exercise, new research shows that we need to move regularly throughout the day for optimal health. “Walking five minutes every hour goes a long way,” Matthews said. “It doesn’t even have to be moderate intensity. Just get moving.”