Health Benefits of Walking

Walking—one of the most effective exercises in the world—is totally free and requires no equipment or expensive gym membership. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends most people get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week; a brisk 30-minute walk five times per week is a great way to hit that number.

Friday, April 1 marks National Walk to Work Day. Even if you can’t hoof it to the office, there are plenty of ways to capture the spirit of the day: try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from the office door, or going for a 30-minute walk over your lunch break. The health benefits of walking are well documented. Read on to learn more from Atkins about walking for health.

Walking helps you maintain a healthy weight.

If you can incorporate walking into your daily routine, you lower your risk of gaining weight. A study of 12,000 adults found that city-dwellers (who walk more) have a much lower risk of being overweight and obese than their counterparts in the suburbs. In Atlanta, the study found that 68% of suburbanite men were overweight or obese compared to 50% of urbanites.

Walking strengthens your bones and muscles.

Walking is a low-impact, weight-bearing exercise that can help keep bones strong, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Walking is especially beneficial to groups like the elderly who may not be able to safely engage in high-impact, weight-bearing exercises such as running.

Walking boosts your mood.

Regular exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, which in turn improves mental acuity. Researchers at University of Texas recently conducted a study with participants suffering from major depressive disorders. Participants either rested quietly or walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes. While both groups saw a lift in mood, the walkers reported experiencing more of a lift in well-being and vigor.

If weather permits, try to walk outside. A study from the University of Michigan found that a walk in nature decreased depression symptoms and lowered perceived stress levels for participants.

Walking reduces the risk of cardiovascular-related diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

In 2007, two scientists from University College London pored over 37 years’ worth of peer-reviewed studies on walking and physical health. They aggregated the data from the 18 highest quality studies, which all together followed nearly half a million participants (who were free from cardiovascular disease at the outset) over the course of 11 years. The results were astounding. Even those who walked just 5.5 miles per week had a reduced risk of cardiovascular-related diseases. On average, regular walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31%; it also cut the risk of dying during the study period by 32%.

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