How to reap the health benefits of walking
The next time you have a check-up, don’t be surprised if your doctor hands you a prescription to walk. Yes, this familiar activity is now being touted (along with other forms of regular physical activity) as “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.”
Walking can have a bigger impact on disease risk and various health conditions than just about any other remedy that’s readily available to you. What’s more, it’s free and has practically no negative side effects. Walking for 2.5 hours a week—that’s just 21 minutes a day—can cut your risk of heart disease by 30%. In addition, this do-anywhere, no-equipment-required activity has also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and keep you mentally sharp. Even a quick one-minute jaunt pays off. A University of Utah study in 2014 found that for every minute of brisk walking that women did throughout the day, they lowered their risk of obesity by 5%. No more “I don’t have time” excuses!
Walking: An ideal form of exercise
Have you ever resolved on New Year’s Day to start exercising more—only to find that you didn’t have the time or couldn’t afford expensive lessons, classes, or gym fees? Maybe concerns about injuries kept you on the sidelines. Walking could just be the way to keep your resolution. Here’s why:
- You already know how to do it. Just put one foot in front of the other. There’s no learning curve like you would have if you took up a new activity, such as Zumba or tennis.
- You can do it anywhere. Step out your front door. Take a walk from where you work. You can walk around areas that you frequent, such as the grocery store, a shopping center, a place of worship, or the homes of friends and family.
- You don’t need any special equipment. If you’re walking for exercise, it’s best to have a comfortable pair of shoes, preferably sneakers. But that’s it! While there are some items of clothing and gear that can make walking more enjoyable, they are not essential.
- It’s gentle on your knees—and the rest of your body. Unlike running, you keep one foot on the ground at all times when you’re walking, making it a low-impact, joint-friendly type of exercise.