The Miracle Benefits of Walking

On: May 24, 2016

By Pam Leland, PhD

 

Fresh Air. Sunshine.

Essential to our well-being.

And so easy to get … simply by taking a walk.

Walking may be one of the easiest, simplest – and least-appreciated – ways to maintain our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health as we age.

A couple of things we probably all know but may need to be reminded of: First, our bodies are built for walking … they are in the words of Cindy Witt, “mechanically designed to be walking machines.”

Second, sitting too much or for too long is bad for us; it is, in fact, deadly. Sedentary lifestyles result in muscle loss and lowered aerobic capacity – issues related to cardiovascular disease and premature death.

The many health benefits to walking. Walking is a great way to improve or maintain your overall health. There are, however, very specific health benefits, including:

  • Stronger bones and improved balance … which reduces the risk of falls and injuries from falls
  • Stronger muscles and endurance
  • Reduces your risk of a premature death
  • Reduces the amount of body fat
  • Reduces your risk of dying from heart disease
  • Reduces your risk of developing colon cancer
  • Reduces your risk of developing high blood pressure
  • Reduces blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure
  • Reduces your risk of developing diabetes
  • Reduces your risk of developing hypertension
  • Reduces your risk of depression
  • Helps control your weight

In addition to these health benefits, there are many others benefits to walking.

Walking is inexpensive. The only thing you really need is a good pair of shoes and a jacket in cooler temperatures or rain. If you feel unsteady on uneven sidewalks or streets, you can add a walking stick. As an exercise strategy, walking is available to everyone.

Walking offers psychological benefits. Feeling the sun on your face, seeing the beauty of trees and wildlife, feeling the energy of life in our cities and small towns … all of these promote a sense of well-being, of belonging, of community.

Walking also promotes a sense of independence and purpose for older adults who may be feeling like they are becoming a burden to their families.

Walking brings people together and builds community. The easiness of walking allows people of all abilities to do something together. It is a great way to stay in touch with friends … or make new friends by joining a walking club.

Start today … simply start where you are. To get the most benefit of walking, it is ideal to walk “vigorously” 30 minutes a day. However, studies have shown that even walking only 15 minutes a day, 5 days week, can significantly improve fitness levels. Here are some simple ideas to get started:

  • Park your car further away from your destination, i.e., build in a bit of walking as you go to the store, to church, to the post office.
  • Hop off the bus one stop before your destination.
  • Walk your dog more often and/or for longer distances. Borrow a friend’s dog if needed!
  • Make walking a part of your morning (or evening) routine. For example, take a walk each evening after you watch Jeopardy! If you establish a routine, you are more likely to continue to do it.
  • Find a “walking buddy” and commit to taking a walk together several times a week.
  • Set small goals to increase the amount of walking you do each day and each week. Keep track of how many steps you take each day with a pedometer.
  • Celebrate your achievements. Remember any amount of walking is beneficial to your overall well-being… so simply start moving!

.

For more information:

National Safety Council Partnership for a Walkable America – Safe Routes