Walking is sometimes seen by fitness fanatics as a lazy way to get physical. While it technically counts as exercise, it doesn’t require the discipline and strength that we see in the gym.
But it is nothing to spit at. This simple aerobic exercise has many of the same benefits as more intense workouts. A few of them may surprise you—especially #7.
1. Improves Circulation
Walking improves your circulation by lowering your blood pressure and your glucose levels, and decreasing your cholesterol.
All of these enhance your bloods ability to quickly and efficiently travel through your body.
If you get pain or numbness in your legs, it is especially important to move them.
2. Boosts Metabolism
During a single walk, your metabolism gets a boost because you have an increased need for calories.
But if you walk each day, you even raise your basal metabolic rate.
Your BMR is your body’s caloric demand to perform involuntary functions like breathing, pumping blood, and producing cells.
3. Strengthens Bones
Vitamin D and calcium are two essential nutrients that you need to get in order to promote bone health.
Additionally, any weight bearing exercises will increase the density of your bones.
Bone is living tissue that strengthens when struggling against muscle.
4. Improves Mood
Walking has been shown to increase your focus and boost your confidence.
It may not give you the feeling of euphoria that a runner’s high produces, but you do get a hit of endorphins.
People suffering from depression report mood elevation after just a 20-minute walk.
5. Encourages Creativity
Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have both been known to hold walking meetings.
It turns out these eccentric figures had figured something out: we think more creatively when we’re on the move.
This effect occurred whether people were walking indoors or outdoors. The mechanism is still unknown.
6. Contributes to Joint Health
Walking helps your joints in two different ways:
(1) the more muscle you have, the less that your body relies on your joints to carry its weight;
(2) the joints themselves strengthen because the compression and decompression of the tissue delivers nutrients to the cartilage itself.
7. Increases Your Lifespan
Contrary to what you may have heard, high intensity interval training is not the only exercise that reverses the signs of aging.
Weight training and steady-state cardio also increase telomerase activity.
In one study, doctors saw signs of the anti-aging process after 6 months of regular exercise.
8. Increases Flexibility
Stretching is an important part of any exercise routine, but some activities increase your flexibility by their very nature.
Walking is one of them.
Vary the kinds of terrains that you walk in, and you will see improvement in your range of motion throughout the whole body.
9. Promotes Digestion
Did your grandmother ever tell you to take a walk after Thanksgiving dinner?
It turns out this was wise advice.
Taking a walk after a meal helps clean sugars from the blood stream, and helps food travel through your GI tract more quickly.
10. Reduces Risk of Chronic Disease
Physical activity is highly correlated with good health outcomes.
People who walk more are less likely to have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and joint pain.
Pulmonary fitness increases, making asthma more manageable. It can even slow the progression of muscular dystrophy.
11. Curbs Cravings
Walking effects the two main hormones responsible for modulating are hunger.
Levels of leptin–an appetite suppressant—increase; and levels of ghrelin–an appetite stimulant–decrease.
After any work out, listen to your body to find out whether you are hungry before grabbing a snack.
Walking is a fantastic full-body workout.
Skip the elevator, park further away from work, and leave the car behind if your destination is just a mile or two away to get the benefits of this excellent exercise.