Face it, we’ve all judged those who spend hours on the treadmill critically. Unbeknownst to us, walking actually provides a plethora of health benefits. Besides increasing oxygen flow within the body, walking results in increased levels of cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, a cocktail of hormones that help elevate energy levels. The plethora of health benefits led Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to describe walking as the “closest thing we have to a wonder drug”.
It halves the effect of weight producing genes
Harvard researchers conducted an experiment with over 120,000 people and focused on 32 genes linked to body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height and weight used to determine obesity. Besides the obvious burning of calories, researchers found out that the effect of weight producing genes was reduced by 50% by those who walked briskly for up to an hour a day.
Strengthens the heart
Walking up to 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week is reported to be able to reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease by about 19%. The risk is reduced when the duration or distance walked per day increases.
Eases joint pain
Several studies found that walking reduces arthritis- related pain, as walking helps lubricate and strengthen muscles that support the joints. Studies show that walking up to five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place.
Reduces the risk of developing breast cancer
The American Cancer Society study focused on walking found that women who walked more than seven hours a week have a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked less than three hours per week.
Boosts immune function
A study of over 1000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once or less than once a week. Studies reported that even if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were reported to be milder.
How to get started
Better Health Channel reports that at least 30 minutes of walking needs to be done most days of the week for one to feel the health benefits. However, if 30 minutes is too strenuous, feel free to break it down into smaller walks of 10 minutes a time, three times a day.
- Pick a scenic route and commit to taking a morning / evening stroll
- If you commute, get off the bus or train one stop early and walk the rest of the way
- Park further away from your office or grocery store to get extra steps in
- Consider walking to get from one place to the other
To get started on walking, all you need is a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Choose a walking route or daily step goal that’s appropriate for your age and level of fitness. Reevaluate your daily routine and try to figure out when you can incorporate walking.
Walking is a form of exercise that can be easily done by people of all walks of life and all fitness levels. It is a good idea to get fit and reap the plethora of health benefits.