When most individuals decide to make a conscious effort to improve their health, they typically think they need to take on one of the 'heavy hitters,' such as cross fit or marathon running. But the truth is these high-intensity programs typically only resonate with individuals who are already fitness buffs. For the other eighty percent of Americans who aren't getting enough exercise and won't stick to a high-intensity training program, walking just thirty minutes a day can offer many of the same benefits. So if you have wanted to do something good for your health, consider the benefits of walking, lace up your tennis shoes, and hit the pavement.
Boosts Mental Health
One of the first benefits individuals new to exercise begin noticing, regardless of what kind of workout they're doing, is improved mental and emotional health. Walking falls within the category of activities with repetitive motions that help the brain process thoughts and memories more easily. Not only that, but it also increases the production of neurons as well as an important neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps the body and brain cope with anxiety. Walking also boosts mental health by helping individuals feel more energized and happier, particularly if they walk outside in a familiar location. And the best part is the mental health benefits of just thirty minutes of walking can last up to twelve hours or more, so it's a great way to start the day the right way.
Exercise is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle, but it's important for individuals to choose a form of exercise they can and will stick with. Walking is a great option because it requires no equipment other than a supportive pair of shoes and comfortable clothes and can be done nearly anywhere. Not only that, but it is also specifically beneficial for losing weight, a goal for many adopting a more active lifestyle. In fact, walking supports weight management in many different ways. Walking burns calories, which is an important component of losing weight. This activity also helps preserve lean muscle, which regulates an individual's metabolic rate and supports greater weight loss. Not only that, but one study even found walking contributed to targeted weight loss around the midsection, which is often a problem area.
Reduced Risk Of Chronic Disease
Increasing physical activity is quite an effective way to reduce the risk for chronic disease. More specifically, though, walking even just thirty minutes a day can have specific benefits for helping individuals avoid common lifestyle diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, joint pain, and even depression. Walking promotes a healthy weight, which may also have the benefit of lowering blood glucose and reducing insulin resistance. Likewise, it is a low-intensity aerobic exercise that strengthens the heart and reduces many of the common markers of heart disease. Walking also releases important brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters, endorphins, and endocannabinoids, which benefit mental health, regulate depression, and put individuals at a reduced risk of chronic disease.
Walking regularly has also been found to have extensive benefits when it comes to digestion. More specifically, a post-meal walk is the best way to improve digestion and speed up the rate at which food moves through the stomach. The activity associated with walking helps the body use the calories from food more effectively and eliminates any excess glucose from the bloodstream more effectively. Not only that, but it also helps the food an individual consumed move through their digestive system more quickly. The benefits of walking and digestion stem from both the improved posture taken while walking as well as the movement that, in essence, provides the stomach with a gentle massage to pass food through more quickly. Improving digestion by walking not only reduces digestion-related discomfort but also helps regulate weight and reduce metabolic-related disorders, including diabetes.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Walking isn't only an effective means of transportation and recreation. It is also an effective way to improve cardiovascular health and reduces the number of other markers for disease. Walking is an aerobic exercise, which has long been touted as one of the best ways to strengthen the heart and limit cardiovascular risk factors. Individuals get the most benefit from walking and other aerobic exercises when they are working hard enough to boost their heart rate to between seventy and eighty-five percent of its maximum, continue the effort for at least twenty minutes, and participate in the activity at least three times each week. Unlike other forms of aerobic exercise, walking is low impact while still providing the opportunity to boost an individual's heart rate. But keep in mind, it's important to walk thirty or more minutes at least five days a week to get the same benefits as other forms of aerobic exercise.
Increased Lung Health
An individual who walks for thirty minutes a day will experience increased lung health. The lungs are the organs in the body responsible for the process of bringing oxygen into the body and exchanging for carbon dioxide removal. Carbon dioxide is the waste product of energy production processes in the body. Walking causes an increased production of carbon dioxide and increased use of oxygen to supply the hard-working muscles. The body adapts to this change by increasing the breathing rate from fifteen times a minute to an average of fifty times per minute. This process increases lung strength and capacity over time so breathing becomes easier and healthy lung function lasts longer. Walking increases muscle function and strength, causing them to function more efficiently. Greater efficiency means less oxygen demand upon movement and less carbon dioxide production. The result is a decrease in the amount of air the individual needs to breathe in and out during physical activity. Walking helps with weight loss, as obesity can make it difficult for the individual to breathe even at rest.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Studies have shown walking thirty minutes a day reduces blood pressure. The death of over 400,000 Americans is partially or entirely attributed to high blood pressure every year. The action of walking causes the blood to circulate through the cardiovascular system faster and more effectively than when the individual is sedentary. This increased workload on the heart causes it to become stronger and function better, as would any other muscle in the body. A heart in better shape will be able to pump a greater volume of blood, resulting in a better ability of the blood vessels to dilate. Over time, blood vessels able to dilate easier will be able to mediate high blood pressure. Walking for thirty minutes a day can decrease stress levels. Certain hormones secreted when an individual is stressed cause their blood pressure to increase. Reduced stress helps ensure these hormones are not released as often, resulting in a reduced frequency of hypertensive states. Walking also reduces anxiety, which is known to increase heart rate and blood vessel constriction.
Boosts Bone Strength
A consistent regimen of walking for thirty minutes per day boosts bone strength. Bone is a living tissue in the body and responds to exercise by becoming stronger, the same way muscle does. After an individual reaches forty years old, bone strength begins decreasing at a rate of one percent per year. Walking is easy on the knee joints because it is a low impact weight-bearing activity. Physical activity that places an increased workload on the bones promotes extra deposits of calcium and triggers the action of bone-forming cells. This mechanism causes an increase in bone mass that inhibits the development and further damage of pre-existing osteoporosis in the bones. Research suggests that walking programs of thirty minutes daily had significant positive effects on the bone density of the hip bone. Because walking stimulates bone formation, it slows the process of age-related decline in bone strength. Walking also has significant positive effects on balance and muscle strength, which reduces the risk of seniors falling and breaking a bone. Walking is an activity that causes less calcium loss through sweating than other endurance type activities.
Walking for thirty minutes daily in a consistent regimen can improve an individual's balance. Muscles throughout the body can become disproportioned in terms of their strength due to a sedentary lifestyle. Disproportioned muscles cause problems with an individual's overall balance. Daily walking can prevent muscle strength imbalances in the body. Often times, joint and back pain are the cause of an individual's poor posture and result in poor balance. Increased blood flow from the action of walking can decrease pain in the back and joints, helping preserve the individual's balance. Walking promotes lower body strength, which is a critical element of optimal balance. Individuals who are overweight or obese have balance issues due to the disposition of excess fat in the body. Walking burns off calories, gives the metabolism a boost, and improves the body's response to insulin. All of these mechanisms assist in weight loss efforts. The body also makes small adaptations in the joints and muscles while walking, which improves balance.
Increases Overall Energy
Walking for a duration of thirty minutes every day on a consistent basis increases overall energy. Stress levels are reduced, and emotional well-being is enhanced by the stimulating effect of walking on blood flow to the brain. Walking can boost levels of serotonin in the brain, which can minimize depression symptoms that cause energy depletion. Overall energy is highly influenced by the amount of sleep an individual gets every night. Walking stimulates the digestive system, which can decrease digestive related difficulties known to interrupt sleep. Walking on a regular basis has been proven to modify certain neurotransmitters and components in the nervous system, causing a reduction in hostility and anger. Feelings of anger, stress, depression, and anxiety can also cause sleep disruptions. Additionally, walking has a stimulating effect on the activities of the T-cells, B-cells, and natural killer cells helping with the quicker release of immune cells. This mechanism allows the body to heal itself more efficiently and fight off common illnesses known to rob individuals of their energy.