Walking offers numerous health benefits that contribute to a healthier heart, increased energy, and a longer life. James N. Robinson, MD, a sports medicine physician, emphasizes that walking impacts multiple systems in the body, making it highly advantageous. Despite being a low-impact activity, walking is considered moderately intense aerobic exercise. To achieve cardiovascular benefits, Dr. Robinson suggests maintaining a pace that elevates your heart rate without causing complete breathlessness. Aim for 150 minutes of walking per week, spread across multiple days, adhering to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Here are the key reasons why walking is good for your health:
- Longevity: Research published in JAMA Network Open reveals that individuals who walk at least 7,000 steps per day have a significantly lower risk of mortality compared to those who are less active. Walking offers comprehensive benefits for various parts of the body, including the brain, muscles, bones, cardiovascular system, kidneys, and lungs.
- Bone Strength: Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that promotes bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. By improving core strength, balance, and stability, walking also helps prevent falls, particularly in older adults.
- Mood Enhancement: Walking has a positive impact on mood and can provide an immediate lift, even in short bouts. Engaging in brisk walking for as little as 10 minutes has been shown to elevate mood and reduce feelings of fatigue.
- Weight Loss: Walking can aid in weight loss when combined with a calorie-restricted diet. Research indicates that incorporating 2.5 hours of walking per week, along with dietary adjustments, leads to greater fat loss and improved metabolic markers compared to dieting alone.
- Heart Health: Regular walking contributes to heart health by reducing cholesterol levels. Studies show that engaging in a walking routine for at least four weeks can decrease total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Additionally, walking has been found to lower blood pressure, further reducing the risk of heart disease.
Incorporating walking into your daily routine offers a range of benefits for your overall well-being. Remember to find a pace that challenges your cardiovascular system, combine walking with strength training for optimal bone health, and enjoy the positive impact on your mood, weight, and heart.