Health & Wellness

Why Walking Is Good For You

walkingRegular physical activity is necessary for a healthy body. Mayo Clinic shares that people can improve their muscle strength and boost endurance by walking. That’s because exercise, including the simple act of walking, gets the body moving and delivers oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. It also helps the cardiovascular system to work more efficiently. Not only do the heart and lungs improve, but people who move their bodies regularly gain more energy. Regular exercise also offers mental health benefits, too.

As cited in the Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, aerobic exercises, which includes activities like swimming, jogging, and walking, are proven to improve mood. Of the cause, they explain, “These improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain and by an influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, thus, on the physiologic reactivity to stress.” Exercise is proven to reduce anxiety, depression, and negative mood. In addition, exercise can improve self-esteem and cognitive function. Therefore, there are many mental benefits to walking.

Many older people enjoy walking because it is a gentle form of exercise. Besides investing in decent sneakers or walking shoes, walking is a low to no-cost exercise. Walking also offers a lot of flexibility. It can be done routinely in groups as a social activity. Walking a pet is also enjoyable. Or exercise can be enjoyed solo in an outdoor environment; providing time to think or listen to music or a podcast. When reading or listening to music, walkers are encouraged to keep the volume low, use only one earbud, and be aware of their surroundings. Walking can be enjoyed year-round, inside, or out. Indoor options may include walking on a treadmill, a gym track, or in a large building such as a mall. Outdoors, one can spend time walking in their neighborhood, exploring cities, or visiting recreation or natural areas. Every so often, it’s fun to change up the routine.

Most physical trainers encourage people who are new to walking to begin slowly. Over time, one can build up the pace and distance. It’s important to stay hydrated, apply sunscreen when needed, take signals from the body, and not to overdo it. Trainers often encourage walkers to use a steady pace, have good posture, swing the arms naturally, and have the feet step in a heel to toe method. Once a routine is established, and a person is physically comfortable, they may consider increasing the pace at the middle of the walk and cooling down by finishing with a slower pace. This change-up can keep a walking routine from becoming stagnant.

Walking can have a positive effect on other aspects of life. For example, many people who walk regularly find that they sleep better, have better success with weight loss, have an increase in stamina and alertness, have less stress, report an increased interest in sex, and over feel better. But how much walking is necessary to get some of these benefits? WebMD, a leading source of medical information, suggests that people walk at a brisk pace for 30 minutes or more on most days. Of course, anyone new to exercise should visit their doctor to evaluate their health and discuss how much and what type of exercise is best. There are lots of great reasons to make walking part of a regular fitness routine, including for pleasure and health, thus it is judged to be a top form of exercise.

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