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Learning the Health Benefits of Walking

Updated on February 21, 2010

 One of the easiest forms of excercise today is simply walking. Sounds easy enough, right? Yet there are many people now a days looking for the shortest route, the closest parking spot, the escalator, elevator, basically a shortcut to our destinations.

Our lives may be at times so overwhelmed with packed schedules, kids to care for, deadlines to meet, meetings to attend and more. It can seem difficult sometimes to try and figure out where in our daily schedules we can pencil in some time to invest in our health. There are gyms, fitness classes, aerobic classes, personal trainers, sports leagues, even equipment that can be used in our own homes like treadmills, ab machines, work out videos, excercise balls, free weights, and so much more available to excercise our bodies and keep fit. 

 

Why Walk?

Sometimes, with all of this available it still doesn't seem that easy. One of the simplest ways to get started on track with excercise is to take a daily walk. We do it everyday; first thing in the morning, we walk into work, or into school, walk to our cars, walk in and out of restaurants for lunch, we walk while grocery shopping, basically, it's a part of our everyday lives. Why not extend it into something that can maintain or improve our health?

Walking is an enjoyable low impact activity that you can incorporate and easily commit to. It requires no special equipment, training, or financial investment, and is a great option for boosting fitness. It's a great way to also take some time out for yourself and maybe use it as a meditation excercise as well. Walking outdoors through your neighborhood or by the park provides for a nice dose of nature. Nature is known to have a calming effect on the nervous system, reducing stress. This is just the beginning of the many benefits that walking has in store for us.

Numerous Benefits

There are numerous health benefits of walking. Making the decision to commit to taking some extra steps everyday can reduce the risk of many diseases, from heart attack, strokes, hip fractures, and glaucoma. More benefits include:

Managing your weight - According to a 2002 study published in the International Journal for Obesity and Metabolic Disorders, Bond Brill et. al. report that walking at least half an hour, five times per week effectively promotes weight loss. Physical activity like walking, is vital to any plan for long-lasting weight control. Keeping your weight within healthy limits can lower your risks of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis.

Controlling blood pressure - Walking can actually strengthen your heart allowing it to pump more blood with less effort and less pressure on the arteries. Excercise, such as walking is just as effective as some medications in keeping blood pressure levels down. According to Dr. Saejong Park, Ph.D., who led a Korean study, "Accumulating brisk, 10-minute walks appears to be very effective for lowering blood pressure.Those with time crunches and busy schedules can fit bits of exercise in throughout the day to reap health benefits."

Decreasing risk of heart attack - Just taking a brisk walk for three hours a week or half an hour a day is associated with a 30% to 40% lower risk of heart disease in women. (Based on the 20-year Nurses' Health Study of 72,000 female nurses.)

Lowering risk of stroke - According to a Harvard study of more than 11,000 men, regular excercise equal to walking briskly for an hour a day five days a week can cut your risk of stroke in half.

Fun Facts

If you walked at a steady speed of 5kph (3 mph) non-stop day and night, it would take you a whole year to walk round the equator - a distance of 40,000 km (25,000 miles).

The average person walks the equivalent of three and a half times around the earth in a lifetime.

One quarter of all the bones in the human body are found in the feet.

Left handed people are generally left footed as well. They also tend to put their left foot forward first when they walk.

The list of benefits from walking can go on and on. There are lots of studies that indicate that taking a daily brisk walk can help:

  • Prevent depression, colon cancer, constipation, osteoporosis, and impotence
  • Lengthen lifespan
  • Lower stress levels
  • Relieve arthritis and back pain
  • Strengthen muscles, bones, and joints
  • Improve sleep
  • Elevate overall mood and sense of well-being.

Walking for Weightloss Tip

Walking two miles per hour (mph) burns between 183 and 273 calories per hour, depending on weight. Walking at a quicker pace, 3.5 mph, burns 277 to 414 calories per hour. Each pound of weight loss requires 3,500 calories burned.Cutting calories and increasing activity help to accelerate the pace at which you lose weight. In order to lose one pound per week, you need to burn an additional 500 calories per day through exercise and calorie reduction.

Take the Extra Steps

Experts agree that all you need is 30 minutes of moderate-level physical activity on most days of the week to see health benefits. Brisk walking is considered a type of moderate-level physical activity. You can even divide the 30 minutes into shorter periods of at least 10 minutes each. For instance, use stairs instead of an elevator, get off a bus one or two stops early, or park your car at the far end of the lot at work.

Challenge Yourself

 On average, people take about 1,000 - 3,000 steps a day. You may have heard of the recent guidelines of walking 10,000 steps a day, which is close to 5 miles. Why not challenge yourself by increasing your number of steps per day and reap in the benefits of walking. An easy way to keep track of this is to use a pedometer. Most pedometers give you the amount of steps you've taken, miles walked, and calories burned. It's a great tool to aid in your quest for more steps!

Remember that any amount of walking is good, but for the best health results, set a brisk pace and walk for 30 minutes at least 5 times a week. Be sure to check with your doctor on the level of exercise that's best for you.

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    • _cheryl_ profile imageAUTHOR

      _cheryl_ 

      8 years ago from California

      I love walking as well. It's a bummer when the weather's not so great, hopefully the sun will peek out for you soon! I am not surprised that brain function and memory benefit from simply walking, thanks for sharing that. I appreciate you reading and commenting flinchwymer! =)

    • flinchwymer profile image

      flinchwymer 

      8 years ago from West Yorkshire U.K.

      Excellent hub Cheryl. I love walking and as you point out it is very good for your health. It's also been shown to have long term benefits for many brain functions, such as memory. Wish we had better weather here in the UK so I could get out more. The gym is so boring, but better than nothing, I suppose. Thanks for sharing.

    • _cheryl_ profile imageAUTHOR

      _cheryl_ 

      8 years ago from California

      Interesting Sam, maybe you had more motivation for walking outdoors rather than on your treadmill which would in turn result in you probably pushing yourself harder and varying in pace as opposed to a machine helping you move.

      I found that when walking for 30 min. a day 5 days a week, I could melt inches on my waist very easily. That's without changing my diet- but I do make a conscious effort to pay attention to what I eat and moderation. A treadmill is actually among the things on my wishlist, but I really enjoy the fresh air when walking outside. Thanks for reading and commenting Sam!

    • profile image

      SamAntone 

      8 years ago

      I lost weight faster when I walked briskly than when I used the treadmill. Why would this be so -- or was it a coincidence of circumstances?

    • _cheryl_ profile imageAUTHOR

      _cheryl_ 

      8 years ago from California

      Thank you Lisa. As a Mom, it's great to get out of the house isn't it? =) Especially when you're killing two birds with one stone; reducing stress & excercising! I'm glad you liked the article.

    • lisaluv9784 profile image

      Lisa 

      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Nice article! I prefer walking or jogging over most exercises,because it gets you out of the house,and really, your not going to get a good view of nature in the gym!

    • _cheryl_ profile imageAUTHOR

      _cheryl_ 

      8 years ago from California

      Thanks for reading and commenting Cheeky Girl! I agree, walking outdoors definitely beats a treadmill. I don't know about some diets either, they definitely shouldn't make anybody feel miserable. I'm a fan of "never completely cutting yourself off" from any certain foods like; chocolate, pizza, ice-cream, etc. The more you deprive yourself of those things, the more you crave em! I go with just plain old watch what you eat, consiously paying attention to portion and moderation, and simply just excersising whenever possible. Thanks again for reading!

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      Great hub on walking and staying fit. Sometimes even the treadmill in the gym can be a pain and I need to walk in the park, when it does not rain, too much! I walk to stay in shape, not for staying thin. I am one of these women who believe that diets make us miserable. I mean, look at Jennifer Anniston. All those darn diets! She still hasn't got over Brad! LOL! Great hub!

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