Just because it's easy doesn't mean it's not effective! Skip the "no pain no gain" warrior attitude and pleasantly walk your way to wellness.
When you picture "exercising," do you envision getting into the car and driving to the gym where you then strain and struggle with strange machines while breathing indoor-sporty air, before getting back in your car and driving home? Is that a pleasant scenario for you? A lot of people love the gym, and seriously, more power to them. I am not one of them; and I can't be alone. And I am convinced that unless you love – or at least like – your chosen exercise, effectively maintaining it throughout your life proves difficult. And while your life will likely be extended by exercise, it's too short to spend it doing exercise you despise. Which isn't to say you shouldn't exercise, but there's value in finding physical activity you enjoy.
Which is why walking is so great; who doesn't like walking? OK so maybe I'm a walker and runner and my biases are showing, but it seems to me that walking has to be one of the least offensive exercises known to mankind. And because of that, people don't seem to understand just how efficacious an activity it is.
Following are just some of the benefits one can get from walking.
1. Your weight can drop
Walking is so easy and pleasurable that we don’t always equate it with the rigors of a gym and subsequent weight loss. But we could. Art Weltman, PhD, director of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia, tells health.com that "Fast-paced walking, when combined with healthy eating, is hugely effective for weight loss." And that for women, deep abdominal fat is the first to decrease. To that end, keep this in mind: Basically, walking for a mile burns 88.9 calories; running for a mile burns 112.5 calories – you get a lot of bang for your buck when walking.
2. Your risk for diabetes can decrease
The American Diabetes Association notes that walking lowers your blood sugar levels as well as your overall risk for diabetes.
3. Your blood pressure can drop
Researchers at the University of Boulder Colorado and the University of Tennessee found that regular walking lowered blood pressure by as much as 11 points and may reduce the risk of stroke by 20 percent to 40 percent, reports Prevention magazine.
4. Your risk of cardiovascular disease is lowered
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that people who walk at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes or more had a 30 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, compared with those who did not walk on a regular basis.
5. Your digestion becomes more regular
Some people enjoy a digestion system that runs like a clock, other don't. If you fall into the second category, walking can help as it improves gastric mobility, says Tara Alaichamy, DPT, a physical therapist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. "One of the very first things an abdominal surgery patient is required to do is to walk because it utilizes core and abdominal muscles, encouraging movement in our GI system," she tells Prevention magazine.
6. Your bones get stronger
"Strengthen your bones through regular exercise now in order to avoid fractures, osteoporosis, and spine shrinkage down the road," writes Katherine in 8 reasons to go for a walk. Bone density is built through exercise like walking, she explains, and people who do it have healthier, stronger bones than people who don’t, according to a study from Oxford University.
7. Your mood can be boosted
It should come as little surprise that physical activity can calm your nerves, but it doesn’t take meditative yoga or expressive kickboxing to get the demons out. Even just a walk can go far in mood improvement. Melina B. Jampolis, MD, author of the book The Doctor on Demand Diet, says: "Research shows that regular walking actually modifies your nervous system so much that you'll experience a decrease in anger and hostility." In addition, walking with a friend adds a healthy social factor, and walking outside in the daylight can help push back Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I personally find that the time spent outdoors during my morning exercise completely clears my head and sets the mood for the day.
8. Your mind becomes more creative
I know for a fact that my morning runs obliterate creative ruts, and ideas spring forth that I didn't even know I needed to have! Walking does the same. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche didn’t write, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking,” for nothing. And according to a study from theAmerican Psychological Association, it’s not just talk:
Four studies demonstrate that walking increases creative ideation. The effect is not simply due to the increased perceptual stimulation of moving through an environment, but rather it is due to walking. Whether one is outdoors or on a treadmill, walking improves the generation of novel yet appropriate ideas, and the effect even extends to when people sit down to do their creative work shortly after.
9. Your body might last longer!
There is a lot of evidence supporting the idea that walking can lower your risk of mortality over all. This study using data from over 334,000 people in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer Nutrition (EPIC) spells it out clearly: Even just going from inactive to a 20-minute walk daily reduces the number of deaths by about 7 percent.
10. And super-size it all doing it in a park
While walking is the key in all of these, further research finds that for city slickers, taking a walk in a park or even a tree-filled plaza – as opposed to more urban parts of a city – helps to alleviate brain fatigue, meaning less stress and improved concentration. For more, see: Study shows a walk in the park fixes a fuzzy brain.
And with all of that in mind, BRB, I'm going for my walk.