If you’ve ever had to deal with a chronic condition such as joint pain, obesity or depression, exercise may seem like an impossible task. But, did you know that walking can actually improve all of these conditions? The journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, showed that walking not only decreases the symptoms of chronic illness but can also prevent them entirely.
In fact, most health professionals will recommend walking over running because it is a low-impact exercise is gentle on the joints and heart.
If you’ve been thinking about adding more activity to your day, read on to learn more about the health benefits of walking daily.
What are the Benefits of Walking?
Did you know that just 20 to 25 minutes of daily walking can lengthen your life expectancy? This small increase in daily activity “has been found to trigger an anti-aging process and even help repair old DNA.”
The research, presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress, followed 69 people between the ages of 30 and 60. “Those who engaged in daily moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk or jog, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and strength training experienced anti-aging benefits that could add an additional three to seven years to your life.”
Here are 10 Surprising Health Benefits of Walking
1. It Reduces Sugar Cravings
Two studies published by the University of Exeter reported that walking for 15 minutes curbed cravings for chocolate and even help you to eat less chocolate in stressful situations. This is particularly important when paired with point 2 below.
2. It Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
One of the most common diseases has seen an exponential increase is cases due to our sedentary lifestyles – diabetes. If you already suffer from this chronic illness, walking 3,000 to 7,500 steps per day helps to treat type 2 diabetes. Try sitting less and find ways to be more active, such as adding more effort when completing household chores and finding more ways to stand throughout the day.
If you’re pre-diabetic, you can help control your blood sugar levels by walking every day. Controlled sugar levels help to prevent the onset of diabetes.
3. It Eases Joint Pains
If you suffer from joint pain, starting an exercise regime will feel like the last thing that could possibly help. However, several studies report that walking not only reduces pain from existing arthritis but that walking for thirty minutes per day can even prevent arthritis from ever appearing in the first place.
This may seem counter-intuitive, after all, your joints seem to hurt most when you move but walking actually protects the joints — particularly the hips and knees by lubricating them. Walking also strengthens the muscles that support these joints which eases pressure on your joints over time.
4. It Improves Your Immune System
As cold and flu season approaches, preventative measures become more necessary. Did you know that walking can help protect you against colds and flu?
According to Harvard Health, those who walk a minimum of 20 minutes per day, for a minimum of 5 days per week took “43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less.”
It also showed that those who did get sick were under the weather for a shorter duration and with milder symptoms.
5. It Reduces the Risk of Breast Cancer
It is common knowledge that exercise reduces the risk of many cancers, but a study by the American Cancer Society showed that “women who who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week.”
6. It Strengthens Bones
Did you know that your bones weaken as you get older? Fortunately, walking helps to strengthen bones. Walking for just 30 minutes a day prevents loss of bone density, which in turn reduces the risk of developing fractures, joint injury and osteoporosis.
Our bones are the framework of our bodies. The healthier and stronger they are, the better our stamina, balance and posture.
7. It Reduces Stress
We’ve all been told at some time or another to ‘go for a walk and clear your head.’ Walking reduces stress levels by “improving circulation, which, in turn, provides nutrients and oxygen to the cells. It also stimulates the nervous system receptors and decreases the production of the stress hormones.”
Take deep breaths in and out while walking to improve your blood flow and release any tension.
8. It Counteracts the Effects of Weight Promoting Genes
By looking at the obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people, Harvard researchers were able to determine how these genes impact and contribute to our weight. What they discovered was the among the study participants those who walked briskly for about an hour a day saw “the effects of those genes cut in half.”
9. It Strengthens Muscles
Just as your bones can lose density over time, so too can your muscles. Walking strengthens and tones muscles and prevents muscle loss.
10. It Improves Digestion
Aside from eating well and drinking your eight glasses of water per day, you can also walk to improve your digestion. Walking after meals helps you to support your digestive system and reduce weight at the same time.
As you can see, walking can improve your health in so many ways. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
Starting a walking routine
If you are new to exercising, you won’t want to start trekking long distances immediately. Instead, break up your walks into more manageable time periods. Start by walking 10 minutes every day. Then, you can increase this to 30 minutes a day.
When you start to find your rhythm, try walking 30 minutes in the morning and then adding another 30 minutes in the evening.
Then as you get more comfortable you can start increasing the pace of your walking.
Starting any new exercise regime can be challenging but with so many benefits to motivate you, you’ll be walking 10,000 steps a day in no time.