How long do you sit down each day? Between work, meals, television and computer time, you probably do so longer than you realize. Sitting for long periods can cause several health problems, including slowed metabolism, spine problems, low energy and even a risk of developing blood clots in the legs that could break loose and travel to the heart, brain or lungs. Lacing up your walking shoes and stepping outside for at least 30 minutes per day helps to prevent these issues and many other problems.
Walking Prevents Muscle Atrophy
Long periods of inactivity can cause your glutes and other legs in the lower half of your body to weaken and even atrophy. These muscles are required to carry the weight of the top half of your body, and weak ones can cause back pain or other issues. By going for a walk of at least 30 minutes each day, you can prevent your muscles from becoming inactive.
Walking Improves Blood Circulation
Daily walks have proven to have several benefits for the heart. Walking elevates the heart rate, which helps to fortify it and combats heart disease. A study conducted by Harvard’s School of Public Health found that people who walk at least 30 minutes per day can decrease their risk of stroke by about 20 percent. People who walk at a brisk pace reduce their odds by an additional 20 percent. If you cannot keep up a fast pace for your entire walk, try alternating between speed walking and walking at your normal pace.
Walking Builds Muscle
Just because you don’t like to jog, sprint or spend hours lifting weights in the gym doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle. People who walk regularly tend to have stronger and more defined muscles in their legs and abdomen. If you focus on pumping your arms while you walk, they will also tone up. Power walking can also help you to expand your range of motion if you tend to have joint problems.
Walking Builds Stronger Bones
Many doctors recommend walking for people who have osteoporosis. One study showed that women who were post-menopausal and walked for at least 30 minutes per day decreased their risk of suffering hip fractures by at least 40 percent. Walking can help to prevent loss of bone mass in people of all ages. However, if you do suffer from osteoporosis, it is essential to talk to your doctor before starting a walking regimen to ensure he or she feels it would be the right course of treatment for you.
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Your daily walks do more than boost your muscle and heart strength. People who walk for exercise at least once per day can decrease their risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by roughly 60 percent. Some research has even shown that walkers are about 20 percent less likely to develop certain cancers, including cancer in the womb, breasts or colon.
Walking Leads to Weight Loss
Walking is an excellent way to shed some pounds, especially if you are someone who can’t do high-impact exercises or who doesn’t enjoy more traditional workouts. Even at a slow pace of two miles per hour, you can burn 150 calories per hour. If you up your speed to three miles per hour, you’ll burn 198 calories, and if you can keep up a constant pace of four miles per hour, you’ll burn 300 calories. When coupled with watching what you eat, weight loss is practically inevitable.
Walking Helps Prevent Dementia
Walking is beneficial to more than your physical health. People who walk at least six miles a week often have better memories and less brain shrinkage throughout the years. Dementia affects nearly 20 percent of people over the age of 80 and in some cases, may be inherited, so it is especially vital to walk daily if someone in your family has suffered from the disease.
Walking Boosts Vitamin D Levels
Nearly 75 percent of Americans lack vitamin D, a nutrient that is important for healthy bones and teeth as well as a for regulating insulin levels and maintaining a healthy immune system. If you spend lots of time indoor between work, school and spending time at home, getting outside for a daily walk is essential. Being in the sunshine will help your body to absorb the vitamin D it needs to be healthier.Related: Symptoms and Risk Factors of Vitamin D Deficiency
Walking Gives You More Energy
A body in motion stays in motion. Taking a brisk walk boosts your blood circulation and increases your oxygen supply, which will help you feel more alert and maintain a higher level of energy throughout the rest of the day. Whether you need a mid-afternoon boost at work or you are lagging on your homework, standing up and taking a quick 15-minute walk can help you gain the energy you need to power through.
Walking Benefits Your Mental Health
People who walk daily have better mental health. The physical benefits, memory benefits and even simply being outside in the sunshine are known to boost creativity and put you in a better mood by releasing endorphins that help to reduce stress and ease anxiety. While you shouldn’t stop any mental health medications you currently take, daily walks can provide a natural boost in your mood if you suffer mild depression or are simply having a bad day.
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Each of the above benefits work together to create an overall healthier mind and body that could even extend your life. According to a study recently completed by National Walkers’ Health, those who walk faster tend to live longer than people who only walk at a slow to moderate pace. Of course, even slow or moderate speeds are better than no walking at all, so quicken your pace if you can but don’t give up your daily walks altogether.