Walking is a fantastic, easy way to get moving – and your body will thank you in more ways than one.
Simple, energising and low impact, walking is an excellent choice for anyone wanting to bring more physical activity into their daily life.
It can be done anytime and anywhere, and it’s something that most people can do regardless of age or starting fitness levels. Plus, there are plenty of opportunities you can find to fit walking into your day, without necessarily thinking of it as exercise.
Here are just some of the health benefits of walking.
1. It can make you live longer
Well, that’s just about the ultimate health benefit, isn’t it? Regular physical activity improves your chances of living a longer, healthier life. In fact, a Harvard University study suggested that walking briskly for just 75 minutes a week can add almost two years to your life, while upping your steps to walk 2.5 hours a week can add more than seven years. Other research has also found a link between walking quickly and living longer – so get those runners on and start zipping along.
2. It helps keep your heart healthy
Being active helps keep your heart in good condition. To reduce your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, the Heart Foundation suggests aiming for 30 minutes of moderate activity such as walking on most, if not all, days of the week.
Studies also show that when it comes to cardiovascular health, a brisk walk is as good as a run. People who walk regularly have fewer heart attacks and strokes, have lower blood pressure, and higher levels of healthy HDL cholesterol than those who are mostly sedentary.
3. It reduces your risk of diabetes
A combination of daily exercise, a balanced diet and a healthy body weight can prevent 60% of type 2 diabetes cases. Regular walking is a great way to manage your weight, and therefore reduce your chances of developing this common condition.
Walking for 30 minutes a day also makes your muscles more sensitive to insulin, which means better blood sugar control. This not only helps lower your risk of diabetes, it can also help you to manage the condition if you already have it.
“Research has shown that frequent walking can help you lose body fat. Not only that, it may also help reduce food cravings.”
4. It helps you lose and manage weight
Any kind of regular physical activity will help you burn more calories, manage your weight and lose unwanted extra kilos. Research has shown that frequent walking can help you lose body fat. A study published in the British Medical Journal also found that a higher daily step count was linked with lower body mass index and lower waist to hip ratio.
5. It boosts your brain function
Being active nourishes your brain tissue and encourages the growth, health and survival of new brain cells. Studies have shown a link between exercise and improved cognitive function including memory, concentration, clarity of thought and problem solving. One study, for example, found that walking at one’s own pace for 40 minutes three times a week can help enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits.
It has also been shown that regular exercise such as walking can help prevent decline in brain function, such as in conditions like Alzheimer’s.
6. It’s good for your mental health
Lower stress, better mood, a feeling of refreshment, and greater emotional resilience – walking offers excellent mental health benefits. Not only does it give you a chance to clear you mind, the physical activity helps to release endorphins (your body’s natural mood-enhancers) and lower cortisol (the stress hormone). Studies suggest regular walking can be a good natural tool for managing and preventing depression and anxiety.
7. It gives you more energy
You’ve probably noticed feeling brighter and more rejuvenated when you come back from a brisk stroll – even if you felt tired to start with. Taking a walk is a great way to get a natural energy boost. Plus, it helps improve the quality of your sleep. One study showed that 30 minutes of brisk walking over five days can help you sleep better, so you feel more alert and energetic throughout the day.
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