The Health Benefits of Walking

Is walking really beneficial?

Are there really any health benefits to walking? The answering is a resounding YES! Often we hear from our clients that they don’t run or jog for a variety of reasons. Meanwhile, they are convinced that walking offers no real benefit. They are left with a “why bother” outlook that leads to a sedentary life.

At Anderson’s Nutrition, we focus on changing that mindset. In reality, walking offers a myriad of health benefits. But don’t just take our word for it! Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calls walking “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” That’s a pretty powerful endorsement.

Walking can be done by most people, regardless of current fitness level. It doesn’t require a gym membership or any special equipment. It is easy on the joints, and has a low rate of injury. It is therefore a great way to get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, which is the amount recommended by the American Heart Association. This amount of exercise can greatly improve overall health and well-being.

So, it’s time to dust off those walking shoes and hit the pavement, hiking trail, or treadmill. Need more motivation? Check out some of the specific health benefits of walking, which we share below.

Ten ways that walking benefits your health

1. Improves mental health

Walking at a moderate intensity can boost your mood and even help treat depression and anxiety. How? Exercise increases blood flow and circulation to the brain and body. It is beneficial to your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is your central nervous response system. This leads to a reduced stress response. In addition, walking helps your body release endorphins, which are “feel good” hormones that improve feelings of overall well being.

2. Lowers blood pressure

Moderate-intensity walking was found to be just as effective as jogging at lowering the risk of high blood pressure. Also, studies have shown that people tend to stick to walking more than other, more intense forms of exercise. We know that lowered blood pressure requires consistency. Therefore choosing an exercise you’ll stick with – like walking – is a great way to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.

3. Protects the brain from dementia

Walking improves cerebral blood flow and lowers the risk of vascular disease, which may help stave off dementia. According to a study by Harvard Medical School, people who “walked an average of 3,800 daily steps had a 25% lower risk for dementia than those who took fewer steps.” In this same study, the benefit increased as the number of steps increased. So no need to stop at 3,800 steps per day!

4. Prevents osteoporosis

Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that helps prevent bone thinning and improve overall structural health. In fact, studies indicate that “Women who walk more than 7.5 miles per week had higher mean bone density of the whole body and of the legs and trunk regions of the body than women who walk less than 1 mile per week.” While women are more susceptible to osteoporosis, men can develop this condition too. And walking is a great way to keep it at bay.

5. Lowers Hemoglobin A1C

Your hemoglobin A1C is the test your doctor uses to see how you are managing your blood glucose levels. Walking can be one way to help you keep your A1C in check. In fact studies show that a short walk (2-5 minutes) right after a meal can help lower blood sugar. Furthermore, walking has a positive impact on A1C for people with Type 2 diabetes.

6. Decreases cholesterol

If your annual blood work raised some red flags, here’s yet another health benefit you’ll want to hear: Walking just 30 minutes per day can lower your cholesterol, thereby decreasing 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! Maintaining a healthy body weight can prevent many diseases and conditions including heart disease and type I diabetes.

9. Improves sleep quality

According to Charlene Gamaldo, M.D. from Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, “We have solid evidence that exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality.” Furthermore, studies indicate that moderate aerobic exercise benefits sleep, and walking falls into this category.

10. Can increase lifespan by more than 7 years!

This might be the most amazing health benefit of all: 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.

Embrace the health benefits of walking!

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 increments three 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.

Finally, if you need expert advice on whether walking is the best exercise strategy for you, speak to one of our a personal trainers who can teach you how to get moving in your own way!