The Importance of Walking

The American Heart Association recommends taking a minimum of 10,000 steps a day. While you might not be taking enough steps to lose count, the benefits of walking are tremendous.  Walking requires minimal to no equipment, and can be done at your convenience. Since walking is a low-impact activity, you will avoid many of the risks associated with more intense forms of exercise.

Here is some hard data to underscore the importance of walking:

Strengthen the heart: reports that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. According to Harvard Health Publishing, walking just 30 minutes a day, five days a week reduces the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent, and reduces risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and vascular inflammation.

Lower blood sugar: An American Diabetes Association study found that three 15-minute bouts of walking each day after meals helps reduce blood sugar. The study offers a side-by-side comparison of adults who walked 45 minutes daily, next to those doing 15 minute post-meal walks. The conclusion: eat, walk, rest, repeat!

Weight loss: You don’t have to engage in vigorous forms of exercise to lose weight. If you walk just 30 minutes a day, you will burn an extra 1,000 to 3,000 calories over a week’s time. The more briskly you walk, the more calories you will burn.

Ease joint pain: Harvard Health Publishing notes that walking protects the joints, namely in the hips and knees ― the most susceptible to osteoarthritis. Among the many conclusions culled from studies on the benefits of walking to ease joint pain: when you walk, you lubricate the joints and strengthen the muscles that support them, thus having the long term effect of easing overall joint discomfort.

Strengthen muscles: As a cardiovascular exercise, walking isn’t typically associated with muscle gains. However, a good uphill walk ― even on a simple inclined treadmill ― can lead to some short-term muscle growth. Remember, walking engages the entire lower body. Your glutes, thighs and calves will all benefit.

Boost your immune system: The British Journal of Medicine looked at the relationship between upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and physical activity. The results concluded that those adults with URTI over a 12-week period were significantly reduced with those who reported aerobic exercise five days a week, compared to those who were mostly sedentary.

The lesson here? Next time someone tells you to “take a walk,” thank them for the sound advice!