10 Health Benefits of a Daily Walk
Warmer weather means more opportunities to go outside. Many of us have spent plenty of time inside this winter and in this past year. We’ve also been under a tremendous amount of stress. Let’s shake off that winter stress with a walk, and reap some of the rewards a daily walk can have on our overall health.
1. Weight loss
Walking burns calories, which can help you lose or maintain a healthy weight. The number of calories you can burn depends on how far you walk, how fast you walk, the terrain, and your weight. You can use a chart or walking calorie calculator to determine how many calories you burn while walking.
2. Stronger heart
Walking can strengthen your heart. In fact, walking just 30 minutes a day on 5 days a week can reduce your risk for coronary heart disease by an astounding 19 percent. Walking longer every day or walking more often can reduce your risk even more.
3. Lowered blood sugar
Taking a short stroll after eating can lower your blood sugar, which is important if you have diabetes or at risk for developing the condition. Taking several short walks can help improve blood sugar levels better than taking a longer walk. In a 2013 study, blood sugar levels were better in participants who took a 15-minute walk three times a day after breakfast, lunch, and dinner than in those who took a 45-minute walk once a day.
4. Reduced joint pain
Walking lubricates your joints to reduce joint pain. It also strengthens your muscles, and strong muscles take some of the pressure off weak joints. Walking is especially important for reducing joint pain in people with arthritis. In fact, Harvard Medical School says that strolling five to six miles every week can even prevent arthritis from developing in the first place.
5. Stronger immune system
Do you want to reduce your risk of catching a cold or the flu? Go for a walk! In a recent study, researchers tracked 1,000 adults during flu season. Participants that ambled at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes each day had 43 percent fewer reported sick days and did not have as many upper respiratory tract infections compared with those who did not walk. When the people who walked got sick, their symptoms were not as bad as those experienced by the sedentary participants.
6. More energy
Are you tired? Go for a walk! Walking when you are tired may be better than drinking a cup of coffee to wake you up. This pleasant form of exercise stimulates the flow of oxygen throughout your body. Walking can also boost the levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which are hormones that help perk you up.
7. Better mood
Walking can help reduce anxiety, depression, and grumpy moods. Going for a stroll can also boost your self-esteem and reduce symptoms of social withdrawal, which we are all facing after a long winter and even longer COVID season. For best results, aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking three days a week. If you are short on time or can’t walk far, you can even break it up into three 10-minute walks.
8. Longer life
Walking can even help you live longer; the faster you walk, the greater the benefit. Research shows that walking at an average pace could reduce the risk of death from a cardiovascular problem or other diseases by 20 percent. Walking at a brisk pace can decrease your risk of death by 24 percent.
9. Stronger legs
Stronger legs can help improve your athletic performance, keep your balance, burn more calories, and reduce joint and lower back pain. To strengthen your legs, walk in hilly areas or on a treadmill that features an incline.
10. Improved circulation
Research shows that any amount of walking can increase your circulation, which can help prevent cardiovascular disease and more. You can start small – even a short 5-minute walk can boost blood flow. Longer walks provide more benefit.
Walking is a wonderful form of exercise for a number of reasons. One of the best things about walking is that almost everyone can do it. Another advantage is that it does not require any special equipment besides a comfortable pair of shoes. Time is also another important consideration – walking does not take long. You can walk alone or with others, outside or on a treadmill, and at any time of day or night.
To get the most out of walking, try to squeeze in a walk on five or more days a week. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, of course, and stay hydrated. If living in a cold or rainy climate prevents you from walking outside regularly, hop on a treadmill or head to the nearest indoor mall. Undergoing laser therapy can help too. Laser therapy, also known as red light therapy or photobiomodulation (PBMT), can help reduce pain, joint stiffness, inflammation, and other issues that can prevent you from walking as much as you would like.
For more information about walking, consult with your trainer, healthcare provider, or physical therapist.