Individuals looking for a way to incorporate exercise into their lives need look no further than their own feet. Walking offers numerous health benefits to people of all ages, and it's particularly beneficial to fitness novices. Walking can facilitate a transition between inactivity and increased intensity for those who may have been away from exercise for some time.
According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking is "the closest thing people have to a wonder drug." Any physical activity is a boon to personal health, and walking provides a host of benefits.
1. Strengthens bones: Walking can slow down the loss of bone mass due to osteoporosis. Arthritis.org notes that a study of postmenopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40 percent.
2. Boosts cardio endurance: Regular walks can improve cardiovascular endurance, which can help people progress to more rigorous physical activity.
3. Burns calories: People can walk to burn calories and maintain or lose weight. The number of calories burned will depend on how briskly people walk, the distance they cover, their body weight, and the terrain on which they walk.
4. Improves cardiovascular health: The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. Walking can fit that bill. Walking five days a week can reduce risk for coronary heart disease by roughly 19 percent, according to a report in the European Journal of Epidemiology.
5. Counteracts effects of weight-promoting genes: Researchers at Harvard Medical School looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in more than 12,000 people who walked briskly for about an hour a day. Walking reduced the effects of weight-promoting genes by 50 percent.
6. Tame cravings: People who have a sweet tooth can take notice that walking may steer people away from overindulgence. A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and reduce the chocolate consumed in stressful situations. Walking also helped to reduce cravings for other sugary snacks.
7. Reduces joint pain: Walking improves blood flow and helps protect the joints. This can keep people from developing arthritis and other stiffness.