Research shows that for every 2,000 steps you walk, you reduce the risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular diseases and even suffering a premature death by 10%. Following the 10,000-step-a-day rule will help you maximize the benefits. At the same time, the rule can lower the risk of developing chronic diseases like dementia and boost your heart’s health. These numbers are part of extensive research and evidence available today that positions walking and running as a virtuous form of exercise to attain optimal health.
What’s more, is that walking is the easiest form of exercise that one can opt for. Be it a beginner or a regular gym-goer, walking is a versatile activity that can pave the way for several long-term benefits. A key reason why many doctors recommend walking for even the elderly is because it’s age-friendly. Also, you don’t need an expensive gym membership or follow a fad diet while walking. You can start anytime or anywhere you may want.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
While walking and running are good for your health, how can you maximize their benefits? In two studies conducted by JAMA Internal Medicine and JAMA Neurology in 2022, researchers found a strong link between the number of steps walked daily, the speed of walking, and the quantum of health benefits. The two studies recommended walking 30 minutes daily for optimal health levels. The studies also claimed a faster pace will aid in increasing the benefits of walking.
And, if you ever feel left out when your gym buddies are boasting about their workouts just remember walking for an hour every day helps you build stamina, conditions your lungs and heart, strengthens your legs, and prepares your body to handle physical activity better. You don’t even need leg days because walking involves using the glutes, calves, quads, hamstrings, and your core. You can even add a bit of challenge to your regular stroll by walking uphill. Quick fact: Walking uses 200 muscles of your body. No wonder, its benefits rival those of multiple fitness regimes.
How walking can improve your health
1. Counteracting obesity-promoting genes: Harvard researchers studied over 30 weight-promoting genes among 12,000 people to determine how their genetics contributed to obesity. The researchers discovered that among participants who went on brisk walks for 30 minutes every day, the impact of the genes was reduced by half.
2. Helping with your sweet tooth: If you are someone who can’t lose weight because of your love for desserts, walking can come to your rescue. Two studies conducted by the University of Exeter showed that a 15-minute walk can reduce cravings for chocolate in stressful situations.
3. Lower breast cancer risk: Putting on your shoes and going for a walk can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. In a study conducted by the American Cancer Society, researchers noticed that women who walked at least seven hours a week had 14% less chance of having breast cancer than those who walked for fewer hours. The benefits of walking were seen even among women who had breast cancer risk factors like obesity or were using supplemental hormones.
4. Relief for joint pain: There are multiple studies that have noticed the positive impact of walking on people experiencing arthritis-related pain. It is recommended for arthritis patients as it’s a low-impact exercise. Moreover, it keeps your joints flexible, improves bone health, and lowers the chances of developing osteoporosis.
5. Improves mental health: Physical activity has a lot of potential to enhance one’s emotional well-being. Even a 10-minute brisk walk every day can increase one’s mental alertness, reduce stress, and help with anxiety. According to observations made by the American Psychological Association, adults who got just 2.5 hours of brisk walking in a week saw a 25% lower risk of depression.
6. Speedier recovery: As per a study published in Sports Medicine, engaging in active recovery like walking after an intense workout or strength training can promote blood flow to muscles and support recovery. The cool-down period helps in preventing stiffness of muscles and aids a speedier recovery.
Struggling with walking? Here’s how to make it more fun.
Despite the wide array of health benefits associated with walking, a lot of people shy away from it. The reasons vary, while some find it too slow-paced, others struggle with committing themselves to a targeted step count. Here are a few ways in which you can make walking a lot more fun:
- Set practical and achievable goals that don’t overwhelm you. Rather than shooting for the moon right from the get-go, start by setting smaller targets like 10-minute brisk walks or walking 2,000 steps a day.
- Track your progress by wearing a fitness device. Also, reward yourself when you achieve a goal.
- Put on some music to make your walk more fun
- Get a walking or running partner to keep you on track
- Train for a marathon and connect with a community of like-minded people
The all-rounder form of exercise
Walking has in store a whole bunch of benefits that can promote your physical as well as mental well-being. You can start by taking the stairs every day to work or a small walk after lunch hour. Walking during a work call or catching up with a colleague while completing your daily target for steps are some of the other ways you can meet your daily walking target. What’s important to remember is that it’s now how far you have come that matters but the fact that you are showing up every day.