Walking is a simple exercise that you can do anytime and anywhere. Even without realizing it almost every day you walk. But, the benefits of walking is not as simple as it seems. You can get a myriad of health benefits of walking for 30 minutes a day.
Let’s dig deeper what the health benefits of walking are:
1. It boosts immune function
Walking can increase the activity of natural killer cells. Walking is even more beneficial for increasing the activity of natural killer cells than endurance training does.
2. It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes
Like all aspects of the human body, weight gain and obesity are influenced by genes. We’ve all met that one person who seemingly eat a lot but never gain weight, or one who has been overweight his whole life. This is all caused by genetics.
According to a Harvard paper, “Genes contribute to the causes of obesity in many ways, by affecting appetite, satiety (the sense of fullness), metabolism, food cravings, body-fat distribution, and the tendency to use eating as a way to cope with stress.”
The effects of those genes were cut in half in participants who regularly do brisk-walking. This means that even if a person is “genetically more prone to obesity,” walking regularly can minimize the possibility of being obese.
Walking prevents obesity and cellulite deposits.
Studies published by Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention has noted that post-menopause women who were avid walkers had reduced breast cancer risk. Unsurprisingly, those who exercised vigorously were reported to have a very significant lower risk for breast cancer (25%).
What might pique your interest is that those who don’t actually do exercises in other forms but do a lot of walking daily have a 17% lower risk for breast cancer. The people with a 17% lower risk for breast cancer only did walking as a way to get to places such as work and home. And that helped reduce their potential for getting breast cancer!
Women who walk regularly after diagnosed breast cancer are 45% more likely to survive according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Yale University researchers found that those who exercised had a 30 percent better chance of surviving.
This just shows how we should get on our feet more instead of riding vehicles. Another idea to get more count in your pedometer is to just walk around your neighborhood when you’ve got some free time in your hands.
4. It eases joint pain
Arthritis is a common condition for people aged 50 and more, or even below. We often see the signs in elderly people: the difficulty of moving up and down the stairs, holding their hip as they walk. These can be eased by the simple activity of walking.
Some people find it ridiculous when they are told to move and exercise when their joints are hurting. Well, it is true that at the beginning the knee pains will probably feel worse, but eventually, it will get better.
Even though walking involves a lot of knee movement, walking is the most suitable exercise for those who suffer from joint pain. It is the exercise with the least risk because it doesn’t put pressure on the knees.
For people who suffer from arthritis, walking will rebuild cartilage. Cartilage in the knees gets nutrients from the continuous compression and decompression of our body weight as we walk. The impact of each step ‘squeezes’ the cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the area. If we do not walk, the joints deprive of the vital fluid. That can speed up their deterioration.
Walking also strengthens our leg muscles. When we walk the legs will handle the body weight, instead of it being supported by our knees. When done regularly and for a certain amount of time, it should also help shed some weight, thus giving your knees less pressure.
As it aches when you first start, just take small steps and walk slowly at the beginning and proceed on a long walk at a moderate speed. That should soothe the pain in your joints at least a little. But keep in mind, if the pain persists in strong waves, stop immediately and consult your doctor. This might be a sign of inflammation.
5. It reduces the risk of diabetes
Diabetes experts have claimed that making a habit of walking regularly lowers blood sugar levels. Walking helps increase insulin sensitivity. This means that the hormone will do its work of converting glucose in our bloodstream (or blood sugar) into glycogen. Glycogen then will be stored in our cells and used for energy storage, thus lowering blood sugar levels.
A 2009 study showed that among the Type 2 diabetes patients that they tested on, the ones who took a 20- minute walk after a meal had lower blood sugar levels. They also concluded that for people with diabetes risk it’s better to take short walks after each meal than a long 45 minute or so walk in the morning.
In addition to this, University of Exeter, in the United Kingdom, also found in their research that walking can reduce cravings of sugary snacks.
Walking for just 15 minutes when you’re stressed can lower the amount of chocolate or other sugary snacks you eat. When you walk, not only will you put some distance between yourself and the sugary snacks you’re craving. The exercise will also release endorphins that help set cravings aside.
6. It lowers blood pressure
A study was done to see the benefits of walking for people with high blood pressure. They used people who are suffering from hypertension and not physically active as test subjects. They observed for 6 months and they came to the conclusion that walking can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressures. The effect is even more prominent on those who had more severe hypertension.
Korea Institute of Sport Science in Seoul did research and found that brisk walking can lower blood pressure just as much as more intense forms of workout. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division also stated that brisk walking can lower blood pressure just as much as running.
7. It helps you sleep better
Our body has a natural clock commonly referred to as the circadian rhythm. It controls the increase and decrease of a hormone called melatonin. This hormone, if released in a big amount will make us feel sleepy by slowing down our heart rate and leveling our body’s temperature.
Walking naturally boosts melatonin. Postmenopausal women who do light to moderate exercise such as walking sleeps better at night.
If you’re specifically looking to walk in order to get better sleep at night, a study on sleep from Aarhus University in Denmark suggests that you should take your walk in the morning. This is because melatonin affected by lighting. More light exposure lowers the amount of melatonin, thus keeping us awake.
Walking in the morning gives a kick start to the circadian rhythm early on in the morning so that in the night time, your body will release melatonin sooner and you’ll fall asleep faster.
Walking also has been proven to relieve some stress which is one of the most common causes of sleep problems. The less stressed out you are, the better your sleep will be.
A study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that women, aged 50 to 75, who walk one hour in the morning are more likely to relieve insomnia than those who do not. Read more “5 Essential Health Benefits of Getting Enough Sleep” here.
8. It boosts digestion
You may have heard people suggest walking after a meal for a quick de-bloat. Walking after eating has been the common practice of Italians for decades. So is it really helpful?
A study in 2008 found that walking can help quicken the pace of the food that is going through our digestive system. Walking after a meal stimulates peristalsis, the movement of the food we’re digesting through the GI tract. It also fastens up the process of food getting from our stomach to the small intestines which will improve satiety.
9. It strengthens the bones
As we get older, we are more prone to bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis. This generally means that the bones get weaker and will lead to cases like bone fractures.
Walking can help strengthen our bones and balance. This, in turn, lowers the chance of falling which is the most common reason for breaking a bone.
The habit of walking has also been proven to be associated with less hip bone fractures in menopausal women. Walking daily, we are stimulating and strengthening bones, increasing bone density.
Walking can stop the loss of bone mass in people with osteoporosis. A study from the Women’s Hospital of Boston ensures that in postmenopausal women, walking 30 minutes a day reduces the risk of hip fractures by 40%.
10. It produces favorable effects on cholesterol
11. It reduces your stress and improves your mood
It is normal that after an intense day of work, our mood is bad or we have a lot of tension. A walk is a solution. It is relaxing, clears the mind, reduces stress and even cures insomnia. It is an exercise that is not taking so much energy.
Walking helps to take less medicine. Walking half an hour helps improve your mood. Walk 30 minutes to reduce negative thoughts, anger, stress, and fatigue. Other studies have shown that exercise promotes the results of antidepressant medications. And it also releases natural endorphins for body pain.
12. It improves immunity
13. It Improves circulation
One of the first and fundamental benefits of walking is that it reduces the risk of blood clots. The calf acts as a blood pump, contracting and pumping the blood from the feet and legs to the heart. The activity decreases cardiac effort.
Exercises will cause body circulation to improve. In this way, you can prevent the onset of varicose veins and keep all the organs of your body in good condition.
14. It improves your posture
15. It Improves your sex life
17. It strengthens the heart
18. It improves the cognitive function
19. It improves the energy level
When walking, the breathing rate increases. So oxygen travels more quickly through the bloodstream. This helps cut waste products and improve the energy level.
20. Live longer
A study by Harvard graduates found that people who are more active physically and relied more on walking than private vehicles for getting to places tend to live longer.
Walking activates an enzyme called telomerase which helps maintain DNA integrity.
In addition to that, as walking lowers a lot of risks of diseases as stated earlier, it goes hand in hand with a healthier, longer span of life.
Researchers in the U.K. even did research about how the pace of your walk affects your health. They asked about their usual pace while walking and measured their height and weight and calculated their Body Mass Index.
Their conclusion was: people who walk faster live longer, regardless of their BMI.