The Powerful Benefits of Walking
By Jessica Basso, RN
Walking is a very beneficial form of exercise. It is estimated that 80% of Americans do not get enough exercise. The Surgeon General suggest that Americans need to start walking because it can help reduce and treat chronic illnesses. Walking is considered a moderate form of exercise which helps prevent and reduce the severity of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. It can also improve mood and mobility. Walking is accessible to almost everyone and doesn’t require special equipment or attire other than comfortable shoes.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine suggested, “at least 30 minutes of walking per day can be significantly beneficial to one’s health.” You can actually burn around 75 calories simply by walking at 2mph for 30 minutes. Up your speed to 3mph and its 99 calories, 4mph is 150 calories. Not only can you burn calories by walking but the health benefits include, improved body composition which contributes to higher muscle-to-fat ratio, decreased risk for metabolic syndrome, such as high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which together can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
A helpful way to keep track of your walking can be done with the use of a physical activity tracker such as a Fitbit or pedometer. If you use a pedometer it will measure the amount of steps taken daily. The magic number of steps to aim for in a day is about 10,000 which is equivalent to walking 5 miles.
If you are unable to immediately walk 30 minutes consecutively, that’s ok. Find time throughout the day to walk 5 or 10 minutes here and there until it adds up to 30 minutes. As time goes, on your endurance will increase and you will be able to walk longer.
Walking is not only just physically beneficially but mentally as well. It’s shown to have extensive cognitive benefits. When we walk we produce new cells in the area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which plays an important role in spatial awareness, and in turning short-term memories into long-term ones. A study at the Mayo Clinic in the US recently found that adults who did regular aerobic exercise for a year, increased their hippocampus. Therefore, your brain literally grows bigger and stronger through exercise.
Hippocrates stated, “Walking is man’s best medicine.” Remember, by simply adding a short walk into your daily routine it can help you shed the pounds as well as improve your overall health.