There are actually dozens of benefits of walking and you’ll experience many of them for yourself when you begin your walking for fitness program.
However, there are some life-changing benefits that are worth pointing out. When you create a daily walking habit, you’re going to be surprised just how much of an impact it has on your life. We’re talking about both physical and mental improvements.
You might be surprised to learn that 50% of all deaths in the United States are directly related to heart disease. It’s the single biggest killer. The good news is that regular physical activity, like walking, helps reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Additionally, it can help you recover from a heart attack or heart surgery and reduce your risk of suffering another heart attack.
2. Walking reduces high blood pressure
High blood pressure has been called the silent killer. When you have high blood pressure, your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your arteries. This causes it to enlarge which then puts you at risk for heart attacks, stroke, and heart failure.
When you walk at a heart-pumping pace, you actually increase blood flow so that your muscle cells get the oxygen that they need. After exercise, your blood pressure will be a bit lower than when you started. This effect can last for a while.
3. Walking improves your blood lipid profile, aka cholesterol
There are two types of cholesterol in your body: HDL (high density lipoprotein) and LDL (low density lipoprotein). They’re both needed to build and repair the walls of your cells. However, too much LDL, which is often called “bad” cholesterol, can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke.
In contrast, HDL is often called “good” cholesterol and is also used to help remove fats from your bloodstream. If you don’t have enough HDL, you end up with clogged arteries.
4. Walking helps you lose weight and keep it off
Obesity is one of the biggest contributors to disease. It causes cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more. And let’s face it, extra weight just isn’t comfortable. Our lives are too sedentary. We sit too much. Your body was meant to move. And it doesn’t have to move in superstar athletic, seemingly superhuman ways.
You don’t have to do CrossFit, ride your bike across the country, or swim the English Channel to get fit. You can walk like you were born to. As you walk, you’ll begin to modify your metabolism.
You’ll burn more calories during the day. You’ll also burn calories as you walk.
5. Walking reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes
Walking helps you balance your blood sugar by getting your muscles burning the sugars. It increases the number of insulin receptors in your cells which in turn helps move the blood sugar into your cells rather than lingering in your blood and making you insulin resistant.
And if you want to boost the effects, walk after eating. It helps improve blood glucose control and burns more fat and calories.
6. Enhanced mental wellbeing
Exercise reduces stress. It’s been proven time and time again through numerous studies. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health concluded that exercise relieves muscle tension, improves hormone regulation, and has a beneficial impact on how your body responds to stress.
Something as simple as a daily 30-minute walk at a brisk pace can reduce stress-related emotions including anger, depression, tension, sadness, anxiety and more.
Exercise including walking is often prescribed by both physicians and psychiatrists as a way to manage and reduce the effects of stress and depression. For people with moderate depression, daily exercise can significantly reduce symptoms and for those with severe depression, walking and exercise are part of a management plan.
But you don’t have to be stressed, depressed, or anxious to benefit from the mental benefits. Walking can induce a state of calm. It helps you feel centered and gives you some perspective on your day and your life.
It gets your heart pumping, which drives oxygen to your tissues including your brain. This in turn helps release endorphins that are known to help create a state of calmness and general wellbeing. If you want to find a way to increase your happiness, try going for a walk every day.
7. More energy and better sleep
Would you like to sleep better? Would you like to have more energy during the day? Waking can improve both. It can help you have more even energy levels during the daytime and help you sleep better at night.
As your heart rate increases, it requires your muscles to use more energy. This in turn has the effect of boosting your metabolism and helping to balance your blood sugar levels. After a brisk walk you’ll feel energized for hours as your metabolism continues to hum along.
And because you’re requiring your body to perform extra work, it needs to shut down and repair at night. Your mind won’t race as you try to fall asleep. Your body’s needs will take over and you’ll sleep more soundly.
8. Improved sex life
According to a study of women aged 45-55, those that exercised and engaged in a walking for fitness program experienced an increase in libido and improved sexual satisfaction. That’s enough to get you in those walking shoes and out the door, right?
9. Improved self-esteem
A walking for fitness program will help you enjoy life more and feel more positive about yourself. Not only are you taking decisive action to control your life and your health, you’ll also start feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride. As your energy improves and you begin to lose weight, your self-esteem will increase too.
10. Improved mobility
When you walk, particularly on uneven surfaces like trails, your body is required to balance and adapt. This helps strengthen your bones, muscles, and tendons and ligaments. The result is improved mobility and a reduced risk of falls as you get older.
You won’t have this benefit walking on a treadmill because it’s an even surface. However, you still increase your mobility a bit by moving your body and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. When you sit and don’t move your muscles, they shorten. This reduces your ability to move comfortably.
Exercises like walking help restore natural movement.
Okay, so you’re motivated to start a walking for fitness program. The benefits are fresh in your mind and you know that it’s as easy as putting on your shoes and go walking.
Let’s talk about those shoes next. While you can walk in anything, including your bare feet, walking shoes can help provide the support and comfort you need to reach your walking for fitness goals.