The benefits of walking almost any distance (except from the couch to the refrigerator and back, perhaps) are well-known and emphasized widely, perhaps more so in recent years with obesity declared a national medical epidemic in America.
Better health through walking is a driving force of the EverWalk effort, and here are some of the benefits you’ll gain, according to healthline.com:
Walking can help you burn calories and maintain or lose weight, a frequent primary motivation to lace up a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
Calories burned will depend on factors such as your walking speed, distance covered, terrain (thanks to gravity, you’ll burn more calories walking uphill than downhill or on a strictly flat surface) and your weight.
A calorie calculator can give you an idea of how your walking plan is going. One can be found and used online at keisan.casio.com.
Strengthen your heart
Walking at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can reduce your risk for coronary heart disease by almost 20 percent. The risk may decrease even more when you increase the duration or distance you walk daily.
Lower your blood sugar
Taking a short walk after eating may help lower your blood sugar. One study found that taking a 15-minute walk three times a day (after breakfast, lunch and dinner) improved blood sugar levels more than taking a 45-minute walk at another point during the day. (More research is needed to confirm these findings, though.)
Reduce your joint pain
Walking can help protect the joints, including your knees and hips, because it helps lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support the joints.
Walking may also provide benefits for people living with arthritis, such as reducing pain. Walking 5 to 6 miles weekly may also help prevent arthritis.
Boost your immune system
Walking may reduce your risk for developing a cold or the flu. One study tracked 1,000 adults during flu season. Those who walked at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day had 43 percent fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections overall.
Their symptoms were also lessened if they did get sick. That was compared to adults in the study who were sedentary.
During colder outdoor temperatures, consider using a treadmill or walking around an indoor facility, such as a local mall or community center.
Boost your energy
Going for a walk when you’re tired may be a more effective energy boost than grabbing a cup of coffee, healthline.com writer Jane Chertoff says.
Walking increases oxygen flow through the body, as well as increasing levels of cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, hormones that help elevate energy levels.
Improve your mood
Studies show that regular walking can help mentally, as well as physically, by helping reduce anxiety, depression and bad moods. Thirty minutes of brisk walking or similar exercise three days a week is suggested to achieve these benefits.
Prolong your life
Walking at a faster pace could extend your life. Researchers found that walking at an average pace compared to a slow pace resulted in a 20 percent reduced risk of overall death. Moreover, walking at a brisk or fast pace (at least 4 miles per hour) reduced the risk by 24 percent.
Tone your legs
Walking, of course, can strengthen the muscles in your legs, and leg strength can be built by walking on hilly surfaces or on routes that include stairs.
Spark your creative thinking
A study that included four experiments compared people trying to think of new ideas while they were walking or sitting. Researchers found participants did better while walking, particularly while walking outdoors.
The researchers concluded that walking opens up a free flow of ideas and is a simple way to increase creativity while undertaking physical activity.
To ensure your safety while walking, healthline.com offers these tips:
Walk in areas designated for pedestrians. Look for well-lit areas if possible.
If you walk in the evening or early morning hours, wear a reflective vest or light so cars can see you.
Wear sturdy shoes with good heel and arch support.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
Drink plenty of water before and after your walk to stay hydrated.
Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, even on cloudy days.
Warm up before walking to avoid injury.
Always speak to your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.