According to the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, walking reduces the risk of any chronic disease. From joint pain to heart and vascular problems to obesity, stress or depression.
Although running is very fashionable, many health professionals prefer walking, especially if we are not in excellent physical condition. Walking puts less stress on the joints, but it produces all the benefits of aerobic activity at a good pace.
And you don’t need special equipment, apart from good shoes. For each trip, you have to make, assess whether you can do it walking instead of using a means of transport.
The list could be much longer, but these are the benefits you can get from walking daily and with enough speed.
Strengthens the heart. Brisk walking for half an hour lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of having a heart attack by 27%. Control the weight. Calories are consumed, and changes occur at the metabolic level. The effect is proportional to speed. Preserve memory. It prevents the degeneration of the hippocampus, an area of the brain related to memory and learning. Reduces the risk of neurological diseases by up to 40%. Stronger bones. They strengthen (the minerals that compose them are fixed) with each step you take. The joints also benefit. It tones the muscles. The legs are shaped, and the glutes, the back muscles, the abdomen and the arms are strengthened. It is a complete exercise.
And a new 2019 study of more than 44,000 Canadians found that people living in more walkable neighbourhoods had a lower overall risk of cardiovascular disease. That’s one reason to advocate for a local infrastructure that makes walking more accessible, says lead author Nicholas Howell, Ph.D., of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Knowledge at St. Michael Hospital in Toronto.
Still, in the short term, “even in less walkable neighbourhoods, there are ways to stay active in your daily routines,” Howell says. He also suggests running errands on foot, parking further from your destination, or getting off the bus a stop earlier. Those minor adjustments “can help you walk a few extra steps each day,” Howell says. “And they all join in.”
Here’s what walking can do for you and how you can maximize its many benefits.
The benefits of walking
- Lower Body Mass Index (BMI). A study from the University of Warwick published in 2017 in the scientific journal International Journal of Obesity confirms that people who walk more and spend less time sitting have a lower BMI, which indicates obesity. In the study, those who took 15,000 or more steps per day tended to have a BMI in the everyday, healthy range.
- Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. National Walkers’ Health research found that regular walking was associated with a 7% reduction in the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Lower fasting blood sugar (glucose) levels. Higher blood glucose levels are a risk factor for diabetes, and the National Walkers’ Health study also found that people who walked had a 12% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Improves memory and cognitive function. Better memory and cognitive function: A 2021 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that when adults 55 and older with mild cognitive impairment were assigned to stretching and toning exercises or aerobic training, primarily walking, both groups showed some improvement in cognitive tests. But compared to the stretching and toning group, the group that walked to stay in shape improved aerobic fitness the most, decreased stiffness in the arteries in the neck, and showed increased blood flow to the brain in ways the researchers believe could provide—more long-term cognitive benefits.
A clinical trial of older adults in Japan published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2015 found that after 12 weeks, men and women part of a prescribed daily walking exercise group had significantly more significant improvements in memory and function. Performance function (the ability to pay focused attention, switch between various tasks, and hold multiple items in working memory) compared to those in a control group who were told to continue their usual daily routine.