Mar. 18—Healthline.com says walking can offer numerous health benefits to people of all ages and fitness levels. It may also help prevent certain diseases and even prolong your life. Here are the top 10 benefits of daily walks:
1. Burn calories: Burning calories can help you maintain or lose weight. Your actual calorie burn will depend on several factors, including walking speed, distance covered, terrain (you'll burn more calories walking uphill than you'll burn on a flat surface) and your weight;
2. Strengthen the heart: Walking at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week can reduce your risk for coronary heart disease by about 19 percent. And your risk may reduce even more when you increase the duration or distance you walk per day.
3. Help lower your blood sugar: Taking a short walk after eating may help lower your blood sugar. A small study found that taking a 15-minute walk three times a day (after breakfast, lunch, and dinner) improved blood sugar levels more than taking a 45-minute walk at another point during the day.
4. Eases joint pain: Walking can help protect the joints, including your knees and hips. That's because it helps lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support the joints. Walking may also provide benefits for people living with arthritis, such as reducing pain. And walking 5 to 6 miles a week may also help prevent arthritis.
5. Boosts immune function: Walking may reduce your risk for developing a cold or the flu. One study tracked 1,000 adults during flu season. Those who walked at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day had 43 percent fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections overall. That was compared to adults in the study who were sedentary.
6. Boost your energy: Going for a walk when you're tired may be a more effective energy boost than grabbing a cup of coffee. Walking increases oxygen flow through the body. It can also increase levels of cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Those are the hormones that help elevate energy levels.
7. Improve your mood: Walking can help your mental health. Studies show it can help reduce anxiety, depression and a negative mood. It can also boost self-esteem and reduce symptoms of social withdrawal. To experience these benefits, aim for 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate intensity exercise three days a week. You can also break it up into three 10-minute walks.
8. Extend your life: Walking at a faster pace could extend your life. Researchers found that walking at an average pace compared to a slow pace resulted in a 20 percent reduced risk of overall death.
9. Tone your legs: Walking can strengthen the muscles in your legs. To build up more strength, walk in a hilly area or on a treadmill with an incline. Or find routes with stairs.
10. Creative thinking: Walking may help clear your head and help you think creatively. A study that included four experiments compared people trying to think of new ideas while they were walking or sitting. Researchers found participants did better while walking, particularly while walking outdoors.
Note: Warm up and cool down before walking to avoid injury. Always speak to your doctor before starting a new fitness routine.