Since you took your very first steps as a toddler, walking has been your primary mode of transportation. While it may not get you as far or as quickly as a car or an airplane, it remains your key to mobility. Without the ability to walk you may be dependent on other people.
In fact, walking is probably the best exercise you can do. And not only is walking simple, enjoyable and free, but it’s also a fantastic way to improve your overall health. You don’t need any special equipment or a gym membership to go for a walk if your weather is nice and your surroundings are safe. Just slip on a comfortable pair of shoes and step outside.
What Benefits Can I Get From Walking Each Day?
Besides being pleasurable and convenient, walking offers a number of benefits to your body’s health. With as little as 30 minutes of walking each day, you can enjoy improved health. Look forward to such healthful advantages as:
- Increased cardiovascular fitness
- Improved breathing
- Better sleep
- A more positive mood
- Stronger bones
- Less body fat
- Better muscle power and endurance
- Increased longevity
- Slower cognitive decline
While walking is possibly the best exercise for your fitness, it also helps you avoid serious diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Regular walkers can anticipate a reduced risk of suffering for common conditions, such as:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Certain cancers
- Alzheimer’s disease
Walking has been shown to reduce the days spent in the hospital each year. It can also help manage chronic conditions, including:
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Muscle pain
- Joint stiffness
Does Walking Result in Weight Loss?
While walking is one of the best exercises you can perform, exercise alone isn’t an effective way to lose weight. If weight loss is your goal, focus your attention on your diet. Walking can still promote better overall health. When you feel healthier and stronger, you tend to make better dietary choices.
According to a study by the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Texas at Austin, students put on an exercise regimen changed their diet even though they were instructed not to. They tended to eat healthier foods, such as:
- Lean meats
Simultaneously, they ate fewer foods associated with a typical American diet, such as:
- Red meat
- Fried foods
- Snack foods
How Much Walking Is Necessary?
Since walking is the best exercise and it’s so gentle, it’s hard to walk too much, as long as you stop when you feel fatigued. The standard recommendation of 10,000 steps is still probably excessive. This figure actually dates back to a 1960s Japanese marketing strategy for selling pedometers. Yet this round number made it into American public health recommendations, although researchers have found little evidence for its efficacy.
A recent study performed by Harvard University concluded that as little as 4,400 steps per day improved longevity in older women, and they did even better with up to 7,500 steps per day. Past that point, they measured no additional benefits.
Whether you’re recovering from surgery or just trying to improve your general health, walking is probably the best exercise you can do. If you’re just beginning a walking regimen, be sure to start slow and don’t overexert yourself. Check with your doctor at the Southeastern Spine Institute.