6 unexpected health benefits of walking

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Walking for 30 minutes every day can improve your health in more ways than you might expect. Not only is walking a fantastic, low-impact form of cardiovascular exercise, it can significantly improve your mental and emotional health, and help with every wellness goal from stress to sleep.

Not many people recognize walking as a real workout. Perhaps it’s too easy, too common, too enjoyable, or too relaxing to be considered a serious form of exercise but in fact, the best thing about this delightful activity is that it’s one of the easiest exercises you can do on a consistent basis.

Walking improves heart health.
There’s a reason walking is hailed as one of the best forms of exercise for heart health. According to reports, the National Heart Foundation of Australia estimates that walking 30 minutes or more each day can actually lower the risk of heart disease, reducing the risk of stroke by a whopping 35 percent.

Plus, daily walking can help you maintain healthy weight, metabolism, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol, all of which help keep your heart healthy. Even if you can’t commit to 30 minutes per day, evidence shows that even a small amount of walking is better than none when it comes to our hearts (yes, vigorous vacuuming, playing with the kids, walking the dog, and going on that long grocery run all count!).

Walking lowers stress and improves mood.
It’s no secret that exercise is a well-researched and proven way to reduce stress. Walking releases endorphins, a feel-good chemical in the body that promotes a state of pleasure like laughter and love.

Walking truly does make you feel good. A 2018 study found that even single, brief 10-minute bouts of walking improved the mood state of participants.

Walking reduces depression.
Research shows that physical activity, including walking, can reduce depression. A study of 121 post-menopausal women, for example, found that those who walked three times per week for 40 minutes at a time had a significant decrease in depression.

A second study discovered that even walking at a brisk pace for just 2.5 hours per week was associated with a significantly lower risk of depression, compared with adults who don’t exercise.

Walking strengthens your joints.
Walking can play a huge role in reducing the development and progression of osteoarthritis, a form of arthritis that affects the joints. Exercise has long shown benefits in treating and preventing osteoarthritis: A recent study shows that walking may improve pain and slow the progression of the disease.

Walking controls your blood sugar.
A meta-analysis of data from more than 300,000 participants made an important discovery: Those who walked regularly had a 30 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is because walking can help control or lower blood sugar.

Walking at a brisk pace in particular (faster than 20 minutes per mile) was linked with a 41 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. A study of 201 people with type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, found that every additional 2,600 steps of walking each day was associated with a 0.2 percent lower A1c, or blood sugar level.

Walking boosts immune function.
Another health benefit of walking every day: Researchers believe that exercise can significantly boost immune function, potentially causing a change in antibodies and white blood cells that help your body fight off illness. The temporary rise in body temperature may also prevent bacteria from growing while slowing down the release of stress hormones (which can increase your chance of illness). Plus, walking may flush bacteria from the lungs and airways, reducing your chances of picking up cold and flu viruses.

 

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