10 Amazing Health Benefits of Walking Every Day
Walking is a very common form of physical activity and a perfect way to improve your overall health and well-being. Unfortunately, with the busy-modern lifestyle it can be very difficult to stay active and exercise on a daily basis. However, the consequences of this sedentary lifestyle are more damaging than what one could think (obesity, chronic diseases, high blood pressure, etc.).
Walking is also one of the most natural and effortless activities you can do, even if you are completely out of shape or have no equipment. You can do it at any time of the day, and pretty much anywhere; with friends, with your pet or alone; and best part of it: it’s completely free!
If this is not enough to convince you to start walking, maybe some of its scientifically proven benefits will. Here are 10 amazing health benefits of walking every day!
Walking has been consistently associated with several cardiovascular health benefits, and there is a very valid reason for it!
Research has confirmed that walking can protect you from some of the most common cardiac affections such as ischemic stroke, coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease (CVD), while it also decreases the morbidity and mortality rates related to these conditions.
In addition, when it comes to hypertension, walking 20 minutes a day or more has shown to have a preventive effect while walking 10000 steps a day or more has been associated with a reduced symptomatology in hypertensive patients.
Walking can also help you normalize the levels of some of the most important parameters that affect your heart function, such as blood pressure (systolic and diastolic; helping control hypertension), resting heart rate, cholesterol profile, and body mass index (BMI). At the same time improves arterial stiffness (related to arteriosclerosis and atheromatosis).
Last but not least, it has been found that the preventive cardiovascular benefits of walking are as effective as those of vigorous exercise!
In a similar way in which a sedentary life has been associated with deleterious health outcomes, walking has been proven to be associated with emotional well-being.
It has specifically been found that self-esteem and mood are positively influenced by walking, in both healthy and psychiatric patients. Walking has also been found to have a beneficial emotional effect for cancer patients, by reducing emotional distress and increasing vigor.
Moreover, it has been proven that the emotional benefits of walking often lead to the development of psychosocial resources, therefore enhancing positive relations with others, developing a sense of purpose and a sense of contribution to society.
So there you go, if you have been feeling a bit down lately, going out for a daily walk might be exactly what you need!
Walking is well known for enhancing quality of life but also recently as an adjunct treatment for patients with depression, depressive symptoms and/or anxiety; showing itself as a promising treatment to reduce the risk of poor mental health.
Walking also helps prevent cognitive decline in the elderly and opens up the free flow of ideas, therefore increasing creativity. If you are looking for innovative and divergent ideas, don't think it twice, put your shoes on and go out for a walk!
Recent research has shown that walking is a good and effective way to improve quality of life in patients with arthritis and osteoarthritis, without worsening their symptoms and even improving bone density.
There is evidence that regular walking is associated with higher bone mineral content and bone mineral density, resulting in less fragility in bones, skeletal integrity and less risk of fracture, especially in postmenopausal women.
Walking is often recommended to patients with diabetes as an adjunct measure to diet and medication with the aim to control weight and glycemic function.
It has been proven that interrupting prolonged sitting with brief breaks of walking helps patients with Type 2 Diabetes control glucose, insulin and triglyceride levels. If you are a diabetic patient, walking could bring you many health benefits. Just be aware that due to potential risk of plantar injury, protective footwear is highly recommended.
If you are not a diabetic patient, walking can still help you lower the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and therefore having a preventive effect, reducing diabetes incidence and mortality.
This is probably the most obvious – but still very important – benefit you can get from walking.
Since every time you walk, you are expending energy and enhancing the metabolism of lipoproteins in your body, this is a great activity for those willing to burn calories, lose weight, fight obesity and attenuate the long-term weight gain that usually occurs in late adulthood.
Multiple sclerosis is probably one of the most disabling health conditions due to its impact in the central nervous system, but walking might help attenuate its disabling effects.
Recent research has shown that walking is associated with improvements in mobility among individuals with multiple sclerosis, therefore improving their quality of life.
Walking is also a recommended physical activity for individuals currently participating in rehabilitation programs to increase mobility after a stroke. Walking has been proven to have beneficial effects in patients with Parkinson, by improving posture and enhancing neuromuscular regulation.
Positive results have also been found in patients with low back pain (LBP), for whom walking has been suggested as a beneficial activity to improve functional abilities. On the other hand, for patients recovering from cancer, regular walking has been proven to be an effective activity to develop safe practices and increasing physical activity.
Finally, chronic kidney disease is just another of those long term conditions that walking can help with, by improving exercise tolerance, cardiovascular reactivity and reducing uremic symptoms.
Research has shown that regular walkers have a significantly larger lung volume and function, and a better bronchodilator response.
Research shows that for heart failure patients, walking improves the respiratory muscle endurance, contributing to exercise capacity and decreased breathlessness.
Beware: Take into account that these benefits on your health and your body also depend on the environmental pollution, so if you really want to maximize your cardiorespiratory function by walking, make sure to find the less polluted environment to go to (any parks near you, maybe?).
Exercise has important modulatory effects on immune function.
It has been found that physical activity benefits and improves many functions of the immune system, making people less vulnerable to respiratory tract infections. In elderly people, walking has also been associated with a more effective immune response.
Walking on a regular basis not only reduces mortality and morbidity rates in healthy elderly populations, but also for patients with cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, sepsis, pneumonia and/or diabetes. Similar results have been found for cancer deaths. Moreover, research has shown that physical activity (especially in sedentary populations) is linked to less hospital stays. These great benefits can only be seen with an additional 20 minute walk on a daily basis!
Another aspect that is linked to less cardiovascular disease mortality is the walking pace: Research suggests that increasing walking pace may significantly reduce the risk of a cardiovascular episode. Similar results have been found for all-cause mortality, suggesting that risk also decreases in association with walking intensity.
Now that you are aware of all the benefits of regular walking and have finally decided to start, you must have a lot of questions. No worries, we have prepared a special guide to help you answer them:
Yes. Research has shown that people can still obtain meaningful improvements from walking even at low intensity, i.e. not too fast. So nording walking or vigorous exercise is not necessary. In fact, scientific studies suggest that the benefits of moderate and vigorous activity are similar as long as the energy expenditure is the same.
Walking is the kind of activity you can do anywhere. However, when it comes to optimizing its benefits, the answer is very clear: it is recommended to walk 30 minutes to 1 hour a day and to favor green spaces.
There is evidence that exercising (walking, running, cycling, etc.) outdoor in green spaces improves self-esteem and overall mood. Scientists have found that after performing physical activity in green spaces, the feelings of anger, depression, tension and confusion decrease. This is especially true for those who are currently struggling with mental health issues.
The answer is no. It does not matter how old you are. It has been proven that regular walking is associated with improvements in physical function, a lower overall mortality rate, and the preservation of cognitive function in elderly people; so don’t let your age discourage you!
Walking for 30 minutes a day (every day!) can make a huge difference for your health, your body and your mood!
Clara Miller has a Master's degree in Sports Science and has worked for famous sports and fitness brands. She is passionate about sports and regularly writes about fitness, weight loss and motivation for various blogs and magazines.