We’ve all been there. You go to bed with grand plans of waking up early and hitting the gym, maybe tossing some lead weights around or doing sprints on the treadmill, but the morning has other ideas. Or perhaps a slight injury is keeping you from that Crossfit or jiu-jitsu class, and you’re discouraged, because what good is getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat if you’re not doing it to the upper limits of human ability? Well, being discouraged about not being able to push yourself is perfectly normal, but there is an alternative. It’s called walking, and—believe it or not—when it comes to health, the benefits of walking are plentiful.
The following 10 reasons why walking is a worthwhile endeavor is, of course, not meant to convince you that walking is better than prepping for a triathlon or doing 20 boxing rounds on the heavy bag. Obviously, when it comes to fitness, the bolder the activity the better. But walking deserves some respect in its own right…
10 Reasons Why Walking Is Worthwhile
1. Good for the heart.
During physical activities, blood flow is increased as the heart contracts and pumps more blood with each heartbeat. This makes the heart stronger, lowers bad cholesterol and promotes better oxygen circulation.
2. Boosts your immune system.
Our ability to fend off diseases is increased with physical activity. Every time you exercise, the body releases more antibodies, neutrophils (white blood cells that kill invading organisms) and natural killer cells (white blood cells that kill tumors and viruses).
3. Creates calm for yourself.
Stressed and feeling a bit overwhelmed? Head outside for a walk to quiet the mind. A calmer mind is one of the benefits of walking. Cortisol and adrenaline, which are stress hormones, are reduced when doing physical activities. Likewise, serotonin levels are increased whenever we do low-intensity workouts such as walking.
4. Helps manage your weight.
Tackling a weight problem is another one of the health benefits of walking. Studies show that an average person can lose up to 90 calories by just walking for 15 minutes. It is best to increase the intensity, frequency and the time of walking based on your overall health status and weight goal.
5. Helps your digestion.
Walking for at least 30 minutes after meals can help in the digestion process. The process of chemical digestion begins as soon as we finish eating. Taking a walk after meals speed up the metabolism, helps burn calories faster and lowers sugar.
6. Improves eyesight.
One of the surprising benefits of walking is improved eyesight. A cardio workout such as walking increases the blood flow in the eye. It helps reduce the risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma and helps improve our overall vision.
7. Sturdier bones and joints.
Since walking is a low-impact, moderate-intensity exercise, it doesn’t place too much stress on the bones. Moreover, walking lubricates the hip and knee joints while strengthening the surrounding muscles. This helps lessen the strain placed on our joints.
8. Increases lung volume.
Cardio exercise—including walking—increases lung volume. As our body gets exhausted from physical activity, our lungs also have to exert effort. As our lungs go through rhythmic expansion and compression, its muscles become stronger and increase capacity.
9. Improves blood flow.
Reduced blood flow and oxygen in the brain can cause neurons to lose connections, leading to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Walking has been shown to decrease the possibility of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by 27%. This is because walking can help improve blood flow and lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases and developing diabetes.
10. Adds years to your life.
Any kind of physical activity, even something as light as walking, can help extend our lifespan. Ultimately, the health benefits of walking, along with improving our outlook and disposition, all boil down to longevity and improved quality of life.
Start Walking for Better Health
Without any form of exercise, the risk of falling prey to a wide array of chronic illnesses gets higher. Start slowly by incorporating low-impact physical activities into your daily routine—walking for at least 30 minutes every day can be a great start. Consult your physician if you wish to increase the intensity and pace of your workout. Investing in a good pair of shoes to prevent foot injury is also important. It will also help if you can monitor your progress by keeping a record of your weight, the number of steps taken and the length of time spent walking. Being able to monitor your progress will keep you motivated over time.