Surprising Health Benefits Of Walking

Walking has too many well proven benefits for you to skip out on. It’s free, and all you need is the time invested and some pretty good shoes to start. Walking, along with a well balanced diet, does wonders for your metabolism… and you can always use the fresh air.

Here are five benefits researched from scientific studies:

 

2. Walking and Cardiovascular Disease: At 2,000 steps a day, the risk of getting cardiovascular disease is lessened by 10%. [2] This study, done on subjects who were at risk for cardiovascular disease and had an impaired tolerance to glucose, also showed a decrease in cardiovascular incidents.

 

3. Walking and Cancer: Walking has also been shown to reduce the risk of a whole list of cancers, gastrointestinal cancer and breast cancer being the most notable ones. [3]

 

4. Walking and Blood Pressure: Walking has been shown to lower blood pressure and lowers coronary heart disease risk by 19% if you walk for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week.

 

5. Walking and Mental Health: Studies on walking showed that there’s a marked increase in school and work performance for people who take regular walks. People who walk regularly also showed an increase in size of the memory center of the brain, leading to better recall. Walking reduces anxiety and stress, and research has shown that it improves quality of sleep, thereby improving your mood and cognitive ability overall. Recent studies have shown walking rather than taking a car to work can benefit psychology – with increased feelings of well being. [4]

 

 

The Right Way to Walk: For adults, especially the elderly, how we walk is most times taken for granted. We’re so used to it that we take our posture and gait for granted, causing our bodies unnecessary strain. If you suffer from back pain, lower body joint pain, or an unusual leg pain after a day of walking, chances are you might be walking the wrong way. A physical therapist in your area might be able to help you with correcting your walk.

Generally speaking, you should be looking straight ahead about 10-15 feet away to help align your body correctly when walking. Your shoulders should be hanging back comfortably, your backside tucked in, and your arms bent at close to a 90-degree angle. Take short, comfortable steps with your feet pointing forward so the center of your body’s gravity weighs in the middle and not forward. [5]

It’s always recommended to check with your doctor before commencing any new physical activity regimen, especially if you’re diabetic or if you have a heart condition. Diabetics have been advised to wear specialized shoes that give their feet extra protection when they’re walking. [6] People who suffer from a heart condition should take extra measures to be safe when they go out for any physical activity; make sure they have a means of communicating with a loved one or a health care provider in cases of emergency, and that they only take walks in populated areas so they don’t find themselves alone in emergency situations.

 

How To Get The Most out Of Walking: Your comfort comes first when it comes to getting the most out of walking. You won’t be that motivated to do it at all if your feet end up aching after a few good minutes. It follows that you’re going to need a good pair of walking shoes.

There are literally thousands that offer features specifically made to make your walk a pleasant, comfortable experience every time. You might want to opt for shoes that have a comfortably cushioned Achilles notch and gel pads that cushion the balls of your feet.

One final tip – if possible, find a walk that is away from roads and other places where the air might be polluted.

 

References:

[1] Further evidence on the benefits of walking. American Journal of Nutrition. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/1/15.full

[2] Association between change in daily ambulatory activity and cardiovascular events in people with impaired glucose tolerance – a cohort analysis. The Lancet. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2962061-9/fulltext

[3] The benefits of regular walking for health, well-being, and the environment.
http://www.c3health.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/C3-report-on-walking-v-1-20120911.pdf

[4] Walking, Biking to Work May Benefit Mental Health – WebMD.com http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20140915/walking-biking-to-work-seems-to-have-mental-health-benefits

[5] Fix bad walking habits before you injure yourself, from the Harvard Health Letter. Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/Fix-bad-walking-habits-before-you-injure-yourself

[6] Diabetic Shoes. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetic_shoe

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