The first Wednesday in April is National Walking Day! The American Heart Association established this day back in 2007 to promote walking as a simple way to get healthier. Time to dust off those shoes and hit the pavement or treadmill for your daily dose of exercise.
Sometimes we hear that “I can’t run and walking doesn’t do anything.” Wrong! Walking can be SO beneficial. In fact, Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called it “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” That’s a pretty powerful endorsement.
Here are just 10 benefits:
1. Improves mood
Walking at a moderate intensity can boost your mood and may even help treat depression.
2. Lowers blood pressure
Moderate-intensity walking was found to be just as effective as jogging at lowering the risk of high blood pressure.
3. Protects the brain from Alzheimer’s
Walking improves cerebral blood flow and lowers the risk of vascular disease, which may help stave off dementia.
4. Prevents osteoporosis
Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that helps prevent bone thinning.
5. Lowers Hemoglobin A1C
A1C is the test your doctor uses to see how you are managing your blood glucose levels. Walking can help you keep your A1C in check.
6. Decreases cholesterol
Walking just 30 minutes per day can lower your cholesterol and decrease your risk for heart disease and stroke.
7. Lowers the risk of breast cancer
An American Cancer Society study found that women who walked seven or more hours per week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week.
8. Helps with weight management
Depending on your situation, “managing weight” may mean maintaining or losing weight. Walking can help you achieve either goal.
9. Improves sleep quality
Studies have shown that walking can improve sleep quality, which in turn leads to better health outcomes.
10. Can increase lifespan by more than 7 years!
No guarantees of course, but research shows that walking can add up to 7.2 years to a person’s lifespan. And it’s not all or nothing. Even just 75 minutes a week, which is less than 11 minutes per day, can add almost 2 years.
Now that you know some of the benefits, make time in your life for walking. Don’t forget that exercise is cumulative, which means that walking in 10-minute bouts 3 times throughout the day gets you 30 minutes of exercise. Need to start off at a slow pace? Don’t worry! You can and should start slowly and build up your stamina and distance. You’ll be at a moderate pace before you know it. Don’t delay. Start today.