When it comes to health and fitness, the simplest solutions are often the best ones. You don’t need to join a fancy gym or buy expensive workout equipment to boost your health and get in shape.
In fact, all you need to do is start walking more each day. Walking is free, easy, and offers a long list of health benefits – both physical and mental.
One of the best things you can do for your heart is to take regular daily walks. Over the years, numerous studies have demonstrated that walking plays a major role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
One such study showed that a brisk 40-minute walk several times a week reduces the risk of heart failure in older women (between the ages of 50 and 79) by 25%.
According to Somwail Rasla, a cardiology fellow at Saint Vincent Hospital, this study indicates that “walking is not only an accessible form of exercise but almost equal to all different types of exercise that have been studied before in terms of lowering heart failure risk.”
Stronger immune system
Regular walks boost the natural immune response by elevating the number of white blood cells, the building blocks of your immune system which destroy viruses, bacteria, and other harmful microorganisms.
Researchers found that people who walk at least 20 minutes a day and at least 5 days a week have 43% fewer sick days than those who exercise once a week or less.
Moderate-intensity walks also lower the levels of inflammatory cytokines, a type of proteins that are associated with a number of different chronic diseases.
When combined with a healthy eating plan, walking can help you reach your goal weight and maintain your fitness level. Keep in mind though, that not just any form of walking will do. If you want to shed pounds and tone your muscles, you will need to walk at a faster pace than you normally would.
This doesn’t mean you have to be an Olympic race walker to harness the power of walking and get leaner. The best way to determine if you’re walking fast enough for weight loss is to bring a walking buddy along.
If you can hold a full conversation, you’re probably not walking fast enough. Try to aim for a pace that forces you to breathe more heavily and allows you to speak only in short sentences.
Regular walks are not just good for your body but for your mind as well. High-energy walking is a form of cardio exercise that stimulates the release of endorphins, also known as “feel-good chemicals”.
This means that the more you walk, the better you feel. According to Robert Thayer, a professor of psychology at California State University, there is “a clear and strong relationship between the number of steps people take and their overall mood and energy level”.
Studies have also found that taking regular walks in nature is linked to a lower risk of depression. People who walk for 90 minutes in green or natural spaces show less activity in the brain regions involved in depression, compared to people who only walk in heavy-traffic urban areas.
There’s more good news for fast walkers: regularly walking at a faster pace can add up to 15 years to your lifespan if you’re a woman and 20 years if you’re a man.
According to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, people who walk at least 3 miles per hour live longer, regardless of their body mass index (BMI). The shortest life expectancy, on the other hand, is found in underweight individuals (BMI under 20) who walk at a very slow pace.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Francesco Zaccardi from the University of Leicester said that these findings show that “physical function is a stronger determinant of longevity than body mass index and that people with high body mass index but with a good fitness may survive longer”.
So, if you want to live a longer and healthier life, you know what to do. Pick up the pace and start adding more steps into your day!