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Walking is the most natural movement that humans have been practising since they evolved to stand on their two feet. Besides the obvious advantage of moving from one place to another, it has also helped sustain overall health and preventing various diseases. Walking is a low-impact exercise that has numerous benefits.

Walking is one of the most effective activities to add to your busy daily routine as it can be the best regimen for a healthy lifestyle. Regular walking is also known to provide relief to those with ailments like joint pain, heart disease, stress, depression and obesity. According to research, walking can reduce the risk of mortality caused by all chronic diseases.

In fact, fitness experts choose walking over running due to its vast majority of benefits and lesser risk of injury. Walking doesn’t harm the heart and joints because of the low intensity, and on an average, people are known to walk 3000 to 4000 steps every day.

Walking 6000 to 7000 steps a day is usually recommended by doctors and fitness experts. According to a study by the University of Sydney, walking reduces the risk of mortality by 20 percent at an average pace and 24% at a high pace walking.

  1. The right way to walk for better health
  2. Benefits of walking
  3. Morning walk vs evening walk
  4. Precautions before going for a walk
  5. Ways to walk 10,000 steps a day

While some would argue that brisk walking is more useful for better upkeep of one's health, some individuals prefer walking at a slower pace depending on one's individual level of health. If you’re planning to walk after dinner then the speed should be less, but if you want to get rid of your daily physical or mental stress, then you should walk at a faster pace. Brisk walking also helps in getting good sleep.

While walking you need to keep in mind:

  • Correct posture
  • Straight back
  • Good walking shoes
  • Even platform

If you have back pain or any other chronic physical condition, consult your doctor before starting any exercise routine.

Whether it is maintaining a healthy body weight, improving digestion or even to fight various diseases, walking has several benefits:

Walking benefits for high blood pressure

Most of the time people can’t exercise due to busy schedules. However, walking is an exercise that can be performed anywhere, anytime with zero equipment.

Walking helps in the reduction of blood pressure. If you are living with high blood pressure then walking can be a great exercise regimen for you. Researchers from Japan's Wakayama college studied 83 participants for 12 weeks every day, and observed a lower level of blood pressure in each individual.

Even if you’re not able to walk 10000 steps a day then walking for at least 60 minutes can also benefit you in maintaining blood pressure.

Walking improves heart health

Walking helps to maintain your heart health. According to a group of Irish scientists, walking reduces the risk of heart attack and heart disease, especially in youngsters. According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, experts have seen positive results of walking in men and women aged 65 years and above. They found that every individual who spent four hours a week walking has a lower risk of heart disease and helpful in preventing strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases.

Walking helps to reduce weight

Walking is an excellent exercise that helps in losing weight or even maintaining it. You can burn 70-75 calories by walking about 4km. Thus, if you walk for 2km on a daily basis consistently then you can easily reduce your weight. Instead of taking the car to places closer to home, it can be a great idea to just walk the distance.

Benefits of walking for cancer patients

According to the Indian Council on Medical Research, deaths due to various cancers will cross over 8 lakh in the year 2020. In 2018, cancer accounted for more than 7 lakh deaths in India.

Many types of cancer are linked to lifestyle, which includes lack of exercise or inactivity along with pursuing habits like smoking. Scientists have found that walking can help in weight loss, which can reduce the risk of cancer. Walking can also diminish the side effects of chemotherapy, as well as reduce the chances of breast cancer.

Walking improves circulation

Believe it or not but walking can change your mind, quite literally. Regular walking fulfills the requirement of oxygen and glucose in the brain, which helps it to stay alert and function more accurately. By decreasing the level of LDL cholesterol that stops the arteries to work, it helps to reduce the risk of stroke. Walking helps in blood circulation and boosts the function of our brain.

Walking is good for diabetes control

Diabetes is said to be one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide, and has increased exponentially thanks to unhealthy or sedentary lifetyles. Scientists have recommended walking 3000 to 7500 steps every day for the concervative treatment for type 2 diabetes. Consistent walking helps in maintaining sugar levels in the body, and in return also curtails the effects of the disease.

Walking is good for bones

As we age our bones get weaker due to loss of bone tissue. However, regular walking can strengthen the bones. This low-impact exercise increases bone density that reduces the risk of osteoporosis, fracture and injury. Strong and healthy bones help in maintaining good body posture, endurance and stability. Walking can also prevent arthritis or pain related to arthritis.

Walking benefits for muscles

Aging not only affects the bones but also weakens the muscles. Here too, walking can help you by strengthening and toning your muscles and protecting them from harm. Walking on a consistent level and on a regular basis strengthens your legs and back muscles.

Walking improves digestion

Digestive disorders can cause bloating, constipation, diarrhea and even colon cancer. It is necessary to keep your digestive system healthy. Along with good habits of drinking water regularly and eating healthy, you should also include walking in your daily routine to improve digestion. After dinner, having a walk is always beneficial. It helps in controlling weight and keeping your digestive system healthy.

Walking for immune system

To protect your body from infections and diseases, your immune system needs to work properly. Walking is a great way to boost your immune system. Walking 30 minutes everyday helps the immune cells, B-cells (also known as B-lymphocytes) and T-cells (it is a type of lymphocyte that helps in immune system response) to function properly. This helps the white blood cells to be released in high amounts and speed up the recovery process.

Walking prevents dementia

Dementia is a degenrative disease of the brain where a person loses memory with time and becomes incapable to perform cognitive tasks. Eventually, it can cause incapability of performing any activity, leading to becoming dependent on others. Consistent walking can prevent dementia and helps improve memory and increase confidence among aged people.

Walking is good for your lungs

Walking can also improve the functioning of the lungs. Walking requires more oxygen than being idle. Inhalation and exhalation of oxygen and carbon dioxide in a big amount helps to boost lung function, which also provides you strength.

Walking reduces stress

Walking improves blood circulation in our body and decreases stress levels, besides providing minerals and oxygen to the cells. Improved circulation stimulates the receptors in the nervous system and decreases stress hormones. While walking, inhaling and exhaling deeply help in reducing stress.

Walking good for memory

Walking has definitive positive effects in the brain that boosts memory in older people. Physical activities increase the size of the hippocampus, whereas a sedentary lifestyle causes a reduction in its side, which in turns results in memory loss. Walking every day is thus helpful in boosting brain function and memory.

Morning walks are usually preferred by a majority of people due to less traffic on the streets and low air pollution. Walking in the morning works as a good headstart to the day as you feel more confident and active. Those with a different predisposition to the activity tend to go on their walks in the evening hours, usually to cool down after a long day at work.

According to some studies, the time of day doesn’t alter the benefits of walking, showing that morning and evening walks provide equal benefits. However, in another study by Preventive Medicine, patients with coronary artery disease benefited greatly from walking in the evening. 

Walking is a low-impact exercise and the most natural movement that doesn’t cause any harm to anyone. However, one can injure himself or herself by walking on an uneven platform or with poor body posture. The surface is always important whether it is running or walking. Choose an even platform to avoid injuries. Do not walk on roads as it can be dangerous due to traffic conditions; prefer a park or a track.

If you’re planning to add walking to your exercise programme, especially with an underlying illness or advanced age, it is always better to keep your doctor informed. The doctor may examine your physical strength and suggest the appropriate pace, posture or even time to walk.

Never overdo any exercise, even though walking is a natural movement and can be done by anyone but overdoing, especially at a higher intensity can cause muscle strain, leg cramps, leg pain, muscle spasm, and blood clot.

Not only for running but walking also requires better grip and cushioning, so always remember to invest in a good pair of shoes. Choose shoes from reputed brands with good stability and cushioning.

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References

  1. Health.gov: US Department of Health and Human Services [Internet]. Rockville, Maryland, USA. 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report
  2. Health Harvard Publishing: Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; Walking: Your steps to health
  3. Health Harvard Publishing: Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; 5 surprising benefits of walking
  4. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Walking for good health
  5. Arthritis foundation [Internet] Atlanta, Georgia, USA 12 Benefits of Walking
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