We know we’re supposed to exercise. We know its part of a healthy lifestyle… we know. Usually, when we think of exercise, the mind conjures up sky high gym membership costs, hours of our week spent in monotonous reps, and- worst of all- running laps in gym in front of a group of sneering peers. Okay. So maybe its only me … but, honestly, for those of us who may err on the side of couch potato, exercising can be intimidating! Where do you start? How long do you have to exercise? How often? Really? Are you sure? That long? Huh. Isn’t there a cheat code or something?
Well, kind of.
Walking is one of the easiest places to start exercising. Not only is it appropriate for almost every fitness level, the start up cost is a pair of sneakers. Walking is also an effective exercise on multiple levels.
Below are 5 excellent reasons you should take a walk every day.
1. Weight Loss
According to the CDC, over one third of adults in America are obese. However, walking is an excellent way to build muscle and lose inches. Humans were designed to walk and thus walking is one of the least controversial exercises among health practitioners there is. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to put effort and energy in to walking as an exercise; but fast walking can burn the same amount of calories as jogging. Walking can also reverse the effects of genes that predispose certain people towards obesity. A report by the American Heart Association released in 2012 revealed that walking briskly for an hour a day can cut the effects of obesity causing genes in half!
2. Better Heart Health
Walking, like any exercise, can reduce your heart rate over time. The key is to walk with intensity and stay within your target heart rate zone (wikiHow has an excellent tutorial on how to calculate your target zones). Make sure and start out slow and then slowly increase your intensity over time and discuss with your primary care physician on how to proceed if you have concerns.
3. Lower Risk of Disease
Walking has been shown to reduce risk for several chronic diseases (including depression which I will touch on later). Heart disease is one of those chronic diseases. Walking for 150 minutes per week (as per the CDC) has been shown to significantly reduce the heart disease. The risk for certain types of cancers can also be lowered by walking. Walking also lowers blood glucose levels as well as insulin resistance which helps in not only preventing diabetes but treating it as well.
4. Improved Mood and Energy
You may have come across the word “endorphins” in health class. They’re the “feel-good” chemical that’s released when you eat, make social connections, and (of course) exercise – its the main reason why you are in a better mood and have more energy after a good workout. Endorphins are especially linked to running (see: “runner’s high“), but walking releases endorphins too.
Not only does walking release endorphins, but people have reported an increased feeling of wellbeing from walking while on the walk and for as long as 12 hours afterwards! Walking (among other exercises) is also strongly linked as an aid in fighting depression.
“One study found that by walking just 30 minutes per day, individuals with major depression reported a 40 percent improvement in well‐being and an 85 percent increase in energy levels as opposed to those who did not walk.” – “How Walking Can Improve Your Mood“, Erin Palinski-Wade
5. Increased Creativity
Finally, walking can give your brain a boost, especially in the areas of memory and creativity. No one is exactly sure how it works, except that a significant number of study participants (over 80%) performed better on a variety of creativity tests. One reason behind the boost in creativity may be that walking distracts the frontal cortex allowing ideas to flow. Another theory is that the general boost in mood that walking gives us causes us to be able to think of ideas and solutions easier.
Remember to always check with a licensed medical professional before starting any exercise program. Not only will it keep you safe, they can also give you wonderful tips to help you to meet your goals! Walking is my absolute favorite ways to exercise! My husband and I try to walk at least two to three miles every morning. What is your favorite way to stay healthy?