10 Surprising Health Benefits Of Walking

walking
(Photo: iStock)

Remember when we gave you permission to eat chocolate for breakfast? Well, now you have our full approval to stop pushing yourself too hard at the gym.

Getting yourself to the gym every single day can be a huge and daunting commitment, especially when factoring in your job, your kids and whatever is left of your social life. We are always on the hunt for simple yet effective ways to keep our bodies healthy and fit that don’t involve torturing ourselves by being chained to a treadmill.

That’s why we love walking: it’s easy, it’s free and it can even double as a social activity to see friends or entertain our kids. Plus, with these beautiful spring days making their debut, there’s even more reason to get outside and get to stepping.

Scott Reall, MS-CSCS, NFL Combine Trainer and Director of Strength and Conditioning at St. George's School, told us why he believes walking is so vital to a healthy lifestyle. "Walking not only offers many health benefits but it requires no expensive equipment, no real prior training, education, or level of fitness to begin. It simply requires you to start walking, which requires no previous athletic ability."

With a mere 30 or 45 minute walk a day, you can enjoy a multitude of incredible health benefits.

Lower Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
"Because it increases cerebral blood flow, walking is one of the best ways to combat Alzheimer's," Reall says. "While walking and exercising your brain is also working which has been proven to lead to a decrease in brain shrinkage in older adults." The Arthritis Foundation cites a study out of the University of Virginia that found that men between 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Tone Your Muscles
Walking tones your legs, butt, calves, quads and hamstrings. It even improves posture and tones your abs and waist.

Improve Your Heart Health and Lower Your Blood Pressure
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends walking every day to lower the risk of health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.

Promote Colon Health
Regular walks can help the body and digestive system function properly and optimally, since exercise is imperative for regular bowel movements.

Improve Your Mood
According to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, individuals who went for 30 to 45 minute walks every day, five days out of the week, showed improved moods and a decrease in depressed feelings.

Strengthen Your Bones
"Bone density loss, also known as osteoporosis, can be prevented through walking since it's one of the best load bearing modalities of exercise that can help strengthen bones," Reall explains. "Healthy adults who participate in moderate exercise like walking have the healthiest knees, since walking helps maintain healthy cartilage." According to the Arthritis Foundation, walking can stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis, and it's also been linked to reducing hip fractures in older women by 40 percent.

Fight Off Glaucoma
The Glaucoma Foundation says studies show moderate exercise like walking three or more times every week can have an eye pressure lowering effect.

Control Your Weight
You don’t have to do hours and hours of cardio to control your weight; eating a sensible diet and walking for about an hour a day has proven effective in managing or even losing weight.

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Lower your Risk of Diabetes
The American Association of Diabetes Educators says a 20 to 30 minute walk can help lower blood sugar for 24 hours.

Improve Your Lung Health
Walking has been credited with improving breath. As you walk, your breathing rate increases and oxygen travels faster through the bloodstream, helping to eliminate waste products, increase your energy level and improve your ability to heal.