Physical activity is a very important part of overall positive health. The more you do, the greater the benefits. When it comes to being physically active, we need to look no further than our walking shoes. Walking has so many wonderful benefits beyond being free and easy to do. We all know that walking is good, but have you considered these other reasons to lace up your walking shoes.
Regular weight-bearing activity – such as walking – helps make your bones stronger. Weight-bearing exercise helps maintain bone strength and reduces the chance of fracture and osteoporosis. One study of post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fracture by 40%.
Boosts Immune System
Brisk walking for 30-45 minutes a day, 5 days a week has been linked to fewer respiratory symptoms and a 26% lower risk for the common cold. Moderate-intensity walking increases the activity of different types of immune cells which can strengthen your immune system.
Healthier Heart and Lungs
When you exercise your muscles, you also give your heart and lungs a workout because they must work harder to supply the additional oxygen your muscles demand. A stronger heart pumps blood and nutrients more easily through your blood vessels. As your physical fitness improves, your body becomes more efficient at getting oxygen into the bloodstream and transporting it to the muscles, according to the American Lung Association.
If you’re active, you’ll have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight, or, if you are overweight, lose weight and keep it off. Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people and found that participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day had a 50% reduction in the effects of these genes.
Decreased Joint Pain
Walking is good medicine for arthritis. It strengthens muscles, which helps shift pressure from joints and reduce pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, a regular walking routine compresses and releases the cartilage in your knees, helping circulate synovial fluid which brings oxygen and nourishment to your joints. When joints don’t get this nourishment, they deteriorate faster.
Better Mental Outlook
Active people describe feelings of psychological well-being and self-esteem when they make walking a habit. It’s a great way to reinforce an empowered attitude and positive outlook. Individuals who reached the recommended amounts of physical activity each week – about 75 minutes of brisk walking—were found to have an 18% lower risk of depression. This increases to 25% lowered risk with 2.5 hours a week. It is thought that 1 in 9 cases of depression could potentially be prevented with 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
Research shows that physical activity helps your body relax and release emotional tension. This promotes longer, better-quality sleep, and you may fall asleep faster. According to the Sleep Foundation, in as little as four weeks, people with insomnia can fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer with regular exercise, such as walking. In fact, authors found that exercise was just as effective as hypnotic drugs in relieving insomnia.
Your body moves with greater ease and range of motion when you stay physically active. Poor coordination can lead to falls, but walking can improve your sense of balance by helping to build up your lower body strength. A study from 2016, found that walking can be more effective for fall prevention than balance training.
When you’re in shape, you can more easily catch yourself if you slip or trip and can move away from impending danger more quickly. Of course, it is important to consider how you can prevent injury while you are walking as well. Set small, attainable goals and go slow at the beginning. Make sure you wear supportive, well-fitting walking shoes. If you are listening to music or a podcast, make sure you can still hear street noise. If walking in the dark, it is best to wear a light or reflective clothing.
Feel Better and Perhaps Younger Longer
Active people have more strength and mobility and fewer limitations as they age. Walking regularly helps people age more slowly and live healthier, more energetic lives. The Harvard Alumni Study found that a lifetime of being active could add up to about two extra years to life expectancy.