Many people are in constant search of ways to help them stay healthy and fit. However, they seem to fail to understand that one simple thing they do every day would benefit them greatly if they just started doing it more often. We are talking about the most basic ability of a human – that of walking. Yes, you read that right! Walking is a highly beneficial, basic physical activity, which most people, unless they have a certain physical impairment, seem to take for granted. Nevertheless, the findings of a French study pave the way to our understanding of the many benefits walking has to offer if we just do it more often.

Let’s See What Benefits Walking Has To Offer!

According to the results of a 12-year study, great health benefits of walking were manifested in adults over 65. During these years, the participants in the study took daily walks of about 15 minutes and thus succeeded in decreasing the rate of mortality by stunning 22%. Moreover, the rate of mortality was even further reduced with longer and more frequent levels of activity.

The study’s lead investigator maintained:

“Age is not an excuse to do no exercise. It is well established that regular physical activity has a better overall effect on health than any medical treatment. But less than half of older adults achieve the recommended minimum of 150 minutes moderate intensity or 75 minutes vigorous intensity exercise each week.” (1)

We should not find this assertion as something completely unexpected and unbelievable. All of us are fully aware of the fact that any physical activity, even the simplest one, like walking is in this case, can have a plethora of health benefits.

In fact, the effects that walking has on a person’s health and well-being have been extensively studied for many years.  As the act of walking seems so natural and basic to us, many of us cannot perceive this activity as an aerobic exercise, and thereby ignore its benefits. Aerobic exercise, also referred to as cardio exercise, is any physical activity that promotes both heart and breathing rates thus increasing oxygen delivery to working muscles. But, perhaps you didn’t know that a simple, slow stroll can also do that.  If you increase the speed of walking, you will also increase the aerobic rate of your activity.

When the functions of your respiratory, cardiovascular, and circulatory systems are boosted, all the essential nutrients reach their correct destinations in order to assist the exercise. In addition, the energy received from food is utilized rather than stored in the body, while the muscles, organs, and bones are strengthened. For the thousandth time, these findings prove that the human body was made to move.

Unfortunately, a great portion of the world’s population spends most of their time sitting and has very low levels of physical activity. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the lack of physical activity is “a leading cause of disease and disability.” They warn against leading a sedentary lifestyle as it “increase[s] all causes of mortality, double[s] the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increase[s] the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety.”

There is even a condition that is induced by this type of lifestyle, known as “sedentary death syndrome.” It is in fact considered “a major public health burden due to its causing multiple chronic diseases and millions of premature deaths each year.” (2)

Therefore, keep in mind that just like your cognitive ability can decline if you don’t use your brain, your body can wear down if you don’t do any exercise.

Walking for Better Life and Health

As we previously mentioned, the effects of walking on various aspects of life and health have been studied quite extensively over the years.

In a 2016 study, obese children were made to walk 45 minutes per day, 5 days a week. After 6 weeks, the results showed that the lung capacity of the children was greatly improved.

Furthermore, interval training isn’t only for high-impact aerobic exercise. Rather than walking at a continual pace, changing the pace as you walk, from fast to slow and vice versa, can help you boost your fitness level significantly.

In addition, walks in nature are especially beneficial for your mental health. Getting away from the busy city and all the electronic devices that surround you every day will undoubtedly have a soothing effect on all your senses. Nature will help you to relax completely, relieve your stress, reduce feelings of depression, and boost your mood.

What’s more, exposing yourself to sunlight will provide your body with vital vitamin D, the lack of which is becoming almost epidemic in the industrial world. Nevertheless, according to a Stanford University’s study, walking on a treadmill while looking at a blank wall instead of natural surroundings can provide nearly the same results in creative thinking as being outdoors. It seems that all it matters is the act of walking, which has been proven to be of great benefit with regards to increasing mental activity, as opposed to sitting.

It Seems Walking Can Be Helpful In Many Cases

Walking is one of the best ways to improve or maintain your overall health. Everyday walking can help you enhance your mobility and lower your risk of injury. Additionally, just like any other weight-bearing exercise, it will increase the strength of your bones and connective tissue by boosting the supply of oxygenated blood and nutrients. This is why the Arthritis Foundation strongly suggests patients with any type of arthritis walk more often and for longer periods of time. It explains that: “If you don’t walk, joints are deprived of life-giving fluid, which can speed deterioration.” (6)

Walking is also recommended by the American Heart Association as a great way to reduce the risk of high cholesterol, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. This association suggests performing any type of physical activity for half an hour daily “to total at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week to realize the protective effects of exercise.” You don’t have to get your daily 30-minute exercise all at once. Simply split up your workout to two 15-minute exercises or as many as you please. It is best to gradually work up your pace and endurance.

It seems that the list of benefits provided by walking is endless. Research has found that this simple activity can also improve your sleep and treat insomnia. Amazing, right?

The findings of a study were reviewed by the Sleep Foundation. According to the study, “…a bout of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (e.g., walking) reduced the time it took to fall asleep and increased the length of sleep of people with chronic insomnia compared to a night in which they did not exercise.” (8)

What more can we say?

The Obvious

Considering the results from multiple studies on the effects of walking, carried out over a period of nearly 11 years and within the scope of 7 different countries, this basic activity has been shown to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular events by 31% and reduce mortality risk by 32%. In fact, taking regular walks of as little as 5.5 miles per week may protect you from various health issues.

Weightlifting, cardio exercises, and other similar strenuous activities might not be for everyone, but walking is surely something most of us can do. No more excuses for you dear reader – get up and start walking your way to better health.

Sources:

The Health Awareness

World Health Organization 

Image Source:

The Health Awareness