According to a proverb, “one step at a time is good walking.” Scientists agree: since most Americans don’t achieve their daily recommended levels of physical activity, the simple act of walking could help them kickstart their desire to create a healthier lifestyle.
Health Benefits of Walking
It comes as no surprise that regular walking is healthy for the body. Because you carry your own body weight when you walk, you practice weight-bearing exercise, a low-impact form of physical activity. Studies have shown that the health benefits of walking include:
- Increased cardiovascular and pulmonary (heart and lung) fitness
- Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke
- Improved management of conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes
- Stronger bones and improved balance
- Increased muscle strength and endurance
- Reduced body fat
- Reduced effects of weight-promoting genes
- Less sugar cravings
- Lowered risk of developing breast cancer
- Diminished joint pain
- Boosted immune function
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to pose health challenges around the world, boosting immune function is especially important. Studies have shown that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least five days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.
Kickstarting a Healthier Lifestyle
To reap its many health benefits, incorporate at least 30 minutes of brisk walking each day, at least five days per week. A good indicator for ‘brisk’ is: you can still talk but not sing, and you may be slightly gasping. Should you find that 30 minutes is too difficult, start with smaller bouts of 10 minutes, three times a day and gradually build up to longer sessions as your fitness improves. However, if your main goal is to lose weight, you should do physical activity for more than 30 minutes per day. Some simple suggestions for how to ramp up your steps include:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Get off public transport one stop earlier and walk to work or home
- Walk, don’t drive, to local shops
- Walk the dog (or a friend’s or neighbor’s dog)
Generally, walking is safe and has little to no health risks. However, if you have a medical condition, check with your doctor before starting.
Regular physical activity built into a daily lifestyle plan is essential for overall health, and walking may just be one of the best options. It’s free, widely accessible, and comes with a host of health benefits. All it takes is 30 minutes each day, so get started today – one step at a time.