Maybe you’d like to shed a few pounds. Maybe you’ve got stiffness in your joints. Or maybe you just need to clear your mind.
These are only a few ways that a brisk walk can do you some good. There are plenty more.
Here are seven great reasons to lace up and put one foot in front of the other:
1. Your heart will thank you. A brisk walk around the block or to the park at a faster than normal pace can contribute to the American Heart Association’s recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day. Plus, according to a national study that compared 33,000 runners and 15,000 walkers, walking provided the same results as a vigorous run in terms of reduction in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and possibly even coronary heart disease based on the six year study.
2. Relieve joint pain and arthritis symptoms. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, research on people with arthritis has shown that walking can reduce pain and ease stiffness.
3. Reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Taking a 30-minute walk can provide a mental boost through an increase in endorphins released in the brain, which can improve overall mood and decrease stress and anxiety.
4. Prevent bone loss/osteoporosis. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, which is recommended to prevent or slow down bone loss in older adults. Women are at greater risk for osteoporosis, but it can affect men as they age and testosterone levels decrease. Another benefit of walking is that it can help improve balance, which lowers risk for falls, fractures and other injuries. Look for a level sidewalk or track.
5. Prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Walking can be a life- and limb-saver for those with, or at risk for, type 2 diabetes. Stuck inside and don’t have a treadmill? No worries. There are lots of ways to step it up. Try walking around while you talk on the phone or parking farther away when you go to the store or work. And you don’t have to shop to walk around the mall.
6. Enjoy some social bonding and relationship-building time. Besides the physical benefits, taking a walk with a friend, co-worker, neighbor or loved one can help you reconnect, learn something, and build a better relationship with that person. Even 15-30 minutes during your lunch hour or in the evening a few times a week can be positive in lots of ways.
7. Get fit and lose weight. You don’t have to join a gym; walking is free and easy. It’s a great aerobic activity that can be enjoyed at home, at the office, in your neighborhood, at a park, the mall, at a museum, along a breezy shore, on a community hike and bike trail, at a fair- or while you’re antiquing, or sightseeing. Wherever you are, take 30 minutes for your health and take a walk three or more times a week.
Dr. Bridget Gibson is a family medicine physician at Brookwood Baptist Health.