With all of the hip new exercise classes like aerial yoga, aqua cycling, and Tabata, many people often forget or downplay the great effects of walking. Yes, walking. It's a misconception that you have to run in order to burn calories. Walking is an awesome low impact exercise that offers many different health benefits.
Based on federal standards, less than a quarter of Americans are getting enough exercise. Although walking isn't a high-intensity workout and is often discounted as a serious exercise because of that, walking is still great for burning off steam, reducing stress, and boosting health. Here are five reasons why you should try walking for exercise.
1. It's free and easy.
Gym memberships can become a big monthly expense. While some basic gyms charge around $20 per month, many other gyms can cost you over $100 per month. Walking is easy and convenient for many people. Forget all of the expensive gym equipment, all you need is a sturdy pair of sneakers. You don't need flashy workout gear either as you can simply walk in your work clothes during your lunch break or when you get home from the office.
2. It can help you live longer and prevent diseases.
Brisk walking helps reduce body fat, lower blood pressure, and increase high-density lipoprotein. Simple activities like walking, even for just a few minutes at a time, can strongly increase longevity. Same goes for other activities like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Walking can help prevent chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers. If you're currently inactive, walking is a good exercise to transition your body into higher intensity exercises.
“The benefits of regular exercise on overall health are so great, it lowers the risk of premature death from coronary heart disease by more than 40%, and the risk of age-related death from all causes by around a quarter – even if exercise is not started until middle-age,” said Dr Sarah Brewer, Healthspan medical director.
3. It can help you lose weight.
One thing many of you may be wondering is whether or not it will actually help you lose weight. The answer is yes, it will. Experts suggest walking 6,000 steps a day to improve health and 10,000 steps a day to lose weight. You can easily track how many steps you take in a day using your phone, smart watch, or a traditional pedometer. The rate at which you burn calories varies depending on your weight and sex, but on average people burn approximately 100 calories walking one mile. Running compared to walking only burns on average 23 more calories per mile. To increase the number of calories burned while walking, find routes with hills or slight inclines.
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4. It can improve mental health.
One in five American adults experiences mental illness in a given year. With depression and anxiety on the rise, many families could benefit from going on daily walks. It's a great way to practice some mental self-care. “Research also shows that walking outside in nature can positively impact your mood. In fact, a 50-minute walk has been found to decrease feelings of anxiety and worry in adults,” said Powles. Joining a walking group can also help combat loneliness. One big motivator for joining walking groups is the social aspect of it. Research shows that walking for just 12 minutes leads to an increase in cheerfulness, sociability, and self-confidence.
5. It can boost creativity.
Steve Jobs knows this better than anyone. He was known to take power walks as a way to stimulate creative thinking. Stanford conducted a study looking into whether walking improves creativity. They found that the act of walking, and not the environment, was the main factor. “I thought walking outside would blow everything out of the water, but walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room still had strong results, which surprised me,” said Oppezzo, author of the Standford study. Creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting. On average, the creativity level of the people walking increased by 60 percent.