Healthy Living: How Walking Can Improve Your Health

Often when people think about exercise, they think sweaty, high-intensity activity. Then they don’t do it because that seems pretty daunting. What if we told you that walking could reduce your risk for many diseases and improve your heart and cognitive health as much as, and in some cases even more so than, running and other exercises? An American Heart Association study found that running reduced coronary heart disease (CHD) by 4.5% but that walking cut CHD risk by more than 9%.

Walking may not be as hip as exercise fads such as CrossFit and TRX, but it's more accessible, less expensive, and easier to fit into your busy schedule than those trendier classes. But because it’s so simple, many people don’t recognize the many health benefits of going for a walk. At Allied Integrative Health & Wellness in Cleveland, Ohio, we are big proponents of walking. Here’s why:

Improves heart health

In the aforementioned American Heart Association study, walkers had less risk of high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and diabetes—all markers for heart disease risk—than their sedentary peers and, in some cases, more so than the runners.

Better brain health

A group of couch potatoes, as one researcher described them, who walked three times a week for 40 minutes, had significantly better brain connectivity and performed better on cognitive tasks than their peers who left their couches for stretching and toning exercises. Another study showed that walking might slow cognitive decline in adults with Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and even in healthy adults.

Back pain reduction

Are you one of the two-thirds of Americans who suffer from lower back pain? Walking can help relieve your pain, one study found, with as little as two to three weekly 40-minute walks.

Boosts creativity

A Stanford University study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that walking substantially enhanced the creativity of study participants. Even participants who walked on indoor treadmills got their creative juices flowing more than sedentary folks. So, next time you’re stuck on a project or have writer’s block, take a stroll.

Improves balance

As you get older, your sense of balance may decline, which may lead to problematic falls and injuries. Walking can improve your balance by improving your lower body strength.

Reduces sleepless nights

Numerous studies show that physical activity during the day, like walking, can improve your sleep quality and help those who suffer from insomnia. Just don’t go for a walk too close to your bedtime because it may have the opposite effect.

Improves mood

Walking can reduce your anxiety and boost your mood by releasing feel-good hormones such as endorphins and taking you out of your normal environment. Walking and other types of exercise take your mind off your troubles and stop you from ruminating.

Lose or maintain your weight

How do you lose weight? Expend more calories than you take in. Thirty minutes of brisk walking burns about 150 to 200 calories. The more you walk, the more you burn. If you watch what you eat in addition to regular walking, you’ll eventually be slimmer.  

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