Less than half of all adults get the recommended amount of physical exercise; of those that do, 60 percent report that they include walking as a part of their exercise routine. Walking is an easy way to stay active and maintain independence, and is accessible to all. Walking has numerous health benefits – here we have highlighted the top 7 benefits to walking!
- Walking promotes brain health. When you walk, your heart rate and breathing rate increase, allowing oxygen to travel through the bloodstream more quickly. This not only strengthens the heart and lowers blood pressure, but also improves blood flow to the brain and overall brain health.
- Walking boosts mood. As you walk, endorphins are released in the body. These are natural chemicals in the brain that act to relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve mood. Endorphins can reduce the risk of depression, especially if you are combining walking with another social activity, such as joining a walking group.
- Walking improves quality of sleep. One study found that those who take regular walks were more likely to relieve insomnia than people who didn’t walk. Along with the endorphins released during walking, minimizing stress will allow you a more restful night’s sleep.
- Walking strengthens bones, joints, and muscles. As with most exercise, walking strengthens muscles in the legs, arms, and abdominals, which can lessen arthritis pain. It has been proven to reduce the loss of bone mass for individuals with osteoporosis and can also keep joints lubricated, reducing deterioration.
- Walking reduces fall risk. Because walking strengthens muscles in the legs and core, it can help improve balance and stability, which in turn greatly reduces the risk of falling.
- Walking increases energy. Walking is an aerobic exercise that promotes blood flow and oxygen consumption, which reduces the incidence of disability among adults over the age of 65. Seniors can stay active and engaged in their communities, and in most cases, they can still perform activities of daily living.
- Walking increases healthspan. Individuals who exercise regularly in their fifties and sixties reduce their risk of mortality by 35 percent. And because walking improves mood and promotes independence in older adults, it is an important part of a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle.
We realize that joint pain, limited range of motion, a history of falls, unsafe sidewalks, or other risk factors may discourage some individuals from walking, but it is important to discuss ways to overcome these obstacles with your primary physician in order to lead an active life. For instance, if you or a loved one has experienced a fall, be sure to walk on even roads at a well-lit time of day, and carry a cell phone or walk with a buddy. If you are walking in colder weather, bundle up and wear extra layers, or try indoor walking, such as walking around a mall. For some, swimming may be a safer alternative to walking.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends walking 45 minutes a day, three days a week. Try walking on your lunch break or first thing in the morning for an energizing way to start your day. Set a schedule and stick to it; walk with a friend or family member to help you both stay motivated.
Arthritis Foundation. (2016). Benefits of walking.
Center for Disease Control & Prevention. (2013). More people walk to better health.
Center for Disease Control & Prevention. (2008). Physical activity guidelines.
Gordon-Larsen, P., et al., Popkin, B., (2008). Fifteen-year longitudinal trends in walking patterns and their impact on weight change. 89 (1) The American Journal of Nutrition.
Nelson, M., (2009). Further evidence for the benefits of walking. 89 (1). The American Journal of Nutrition.
Office of Disease Control & Health Prevention [ODCHP]. (2017). Reflecting on the big picture of physical activity and disability.
Mayo Clinic. (2015). Walking: Trim Your Waistline, Improve Your Health