Walking is of the best forms of cardio exercise you can do, and it’s great for your health even if you’re not trying to lose weight by walking. Should you try to walk more if your goal is general health, happiness, or fitness? Yes! There are so many health benefits to be gained from walking it’s difficult to even list them all.
From mood boosts and mental health benefits to improving your cardiovascular health, walking is good for you regardless of your size. If your goal is to get healthier but you’re not looking to lose weight, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Here’s why you should be walking more, and if you’re already getting incredibly active here are some of the benefits you may not even know you’re getting.
Walking is good for your heart
Walking is great for your heart, regardless of your size. Even if you’re at a healthy weight, exercise is still important to make sure your heart is operating at peak condition. You can’t necessarily tell someone’s heart health just by looking at them, and thin but inactive people can be at risk for heart conditions without even realizing it.
Walking improves your heart health
Walking and other forms of activity can help strengthen your heart. Getting active helps to strengthen your heart and helps it pump blood more efficiently. According to the NIH, walking is one of the first things that people should do to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Harvard Health reports that moderate-intensity physical activity like walking can cut your risk of cardiovascular events by 31% and also cut your risk of dying by 31%.
Other studies have shown that doing an activity that burns 150 calories a day (or 1000 calories a week), can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by 50%. Whether or not you’re walking to lose weight, you can still see some great benefits from getting your heart pumping. It’s not just great for your heart – it may also decrease your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and colon cancer by 30%!
Improved cholesterol levels:
Even people at an ideal weight can have problems with their cholesterol levels. Walking can reduce your risk of heart disease by increasing your HDL (“good cholesterol) and decreasing your LDL (“bad cholesterol). The Mayo Clinic recommends walking 5 days per week and adding in short bursts of physical activity throughout the day to increase your HDL.
Walking makes you feel great
Everyone feels tired or down sometimes, but walking can actually boost your mood, give you more energy and boost your creativity. Even if you’re an experienced athlete, sometimes a short walk is just what you need to feel better.
Walking improves your mood
Everyone feels down sometimes, but walking can actually improve your mood and make you feel better. Psychology Today reported on a 2016 study that found that walking helped participants maintain their positive feelings even while doing a boring, tiresome task. These mood-boosting effects can persist even after you finish walking. Studies have shown that walking’s mood-boosting effects can last up to 3 hours, or potentially up to 7 hours after walking in a beautiful natural setting.
Walking decreases stress
According to the Mayo Clinic, almost any form of exercise can help to decrease stress levels. That’s all well and good, but if you’re having a tough day at the office or going through a stressful time at home, are you really going to be able to go out and play a round of golf or a game of basketball? Walking is something you can do almost anywhere, almost anytime. This means that you can take a 2-5 minute walking break during a stressful day of work and relieve stress right away, while undoing some of the damage all of that sitting is doing.
When you have more time to plan, walking in a peaceful, natural environment can have additional stress-relieving benefits.
Walking gives you energy
It may sound counterintuitive, but walking can actually help you feel more energetic. Australian researchers found that taking a light walk every 30 minutes actually made study participants feel more energetic at the end of the day. A Texas study also found that aerobic exercises, including fast walking, helped combat chronic fatigue in participants as they got more physically fit.
You don’t necessarily have to lose weight to get more fit. As previously mentioned, it’s quite possible for someone to be thin but extremely out of shape. If you’re able to do an hour of brisk walking, it’s much easier to chase around the kids or stay energetic when rushing to a meeting. Other people find walking first thing in the morning helps them wake up and feel more energetic. Even a leisurely walk can get the job done, regardless of how many calories you burn!
Walking builds endurance
The best way to be able to walk longer without feeling tired is . . . getting out and walking! Walking helps you build up your cardio levels so that you can get more active without getting tired. Let’s face it – people are busier than ever these days. You may have to rush the kids to various activities, run around doing errands, or deal with a physically demanding job. The bigger your body’s cardio gas tank, the longer you can go before you start to fatigue.
By gradually increasing your steps, you can build up your endurance over time. It’s probably unlikely that you’ll ever have an urgent need to walk 10,000 steps, but you may find that you need to rush to catch a flight or keep up with your dog during walks.
Building up your cardio can even be useful if you’re working at a desk job. The less tired you get doing your daily tasks, the more energy you have to focus on your work. Walking can also boost your energy and mood, but if you’re physically exhausted there’s only so much walking can do. If you’re an experienced walker who isn’t fazed by daily tasks, you’ll feel more confident that you can handle what life throws at you and get back to focusing on what you need to do.
Walking may help you live longer
Studies have shown that getting active can decrease your risk of death. The studies below were not focused on weight loss as a goal, but activity level among adults. There could be some correlation between weight and activity level, but even at the same weight getting more active is great for your health.
A study in the British Medical Journal found that getting active, even at a light intensity, can dramatically lower your risk of death! The study asked participants to wear motion tracking devices, and tracked how active they got – even at low-intensity tasks like washing dishes. Surprisingly, even doing light tasks like leisurely walking made a huge impact.
Another study found that older women who walked as little as 4,400 steps per day had a 41% decreased risk of death compared to women who walked only around 2,700 steps. That small change in activity made a big difference in health.
These studies show that you don’t have to hit 10,000 steps to get health benefits from exercise. Walking is the easiest and most accessible activity you can do, so why not start there?
You’ll even sleep better!
What is Harvard Health’s #1 secret to better sleep? Exercise! Studies found that women who exercised at least 3.5 hours per week had an easier time going to sleep than women who exercised less often. They did find that exercise can make you feel more energetic (as we mentioned earlier). Morning exercise may be ideal for people with sleep difficulties, but getting active overall can be extremely helpful.
The National Sleep Foundation found that moderate-intensity exercise helped people with chronic insomnia sleep better. Interestingly enough, vigorous-intensity exercise and lifting weights didn’t improve sleep for those participants.
As we mentioned, walking helps reduce stress and improve mood, which can also help you feel calmer and sleep better. Sleeping better can also help you avoid weight gain and recover from exercise, which is good for your health overall! If you’re having trouble sleeping, why not see if you can get more steps during the day?
Almost everyone can benefit from walking more – even if you’re not looking to lose weight. Walking is good for your body, heart and mind, no matter what your size. Get out, get active and feel great today!
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