Walking to a Healthy Future

March 17, 2016

As the temperatures become milder and spring weather calls us to enjoy the world around us, we begin our summer fittness routines ... and what better way to kick off the season than with daily walks! Walking is a great, low-impact exercise that comfortably takes you into a highly improved level of fitness. It's a simple, everyday activity for most people and offers many health benefits. If you're looking for a convenient way to improve your health, walking may be the answer. What can walking do for you? A lot! Maybe these benefits will encourage you to go out for a walk today!
  • Reduce symptoms of depression. In one study, walking for 30 minutes, three to five times per week for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of depression by 47%.
  • Reduce the risk of colon cancer. Many studies have shown that exercise can prevent colon cancer. Exercise also has been shown to improve the quality of life and reduce mortality for colon cancer patients .
  • Prevent type 2 diabetes. The Diabetes Prevention Program reports that walking 150 minutes per week and losing just 7% of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes by 58%. Pretty sweet!
  • Improve brain function. Researchers found that women who walked at an easy pace (2 miles per hour) at least 1 1/2 hours per week had significantly better cognitive function and less cognitive decline than women who walked less than 40 minutes per week at the same pace. Literally food for thought!
  • Strengthen the heart. Mortality rates among retired men who walked less than one mile per day were nearly twice that among those who walked more than two miles per day in one study. Women in the Nurse's Health Study who walked three hours or more per week reduced their risk of a heart attack or other coronary event by 35% compared with women who did not walk.
  • Strengthen bones. Studies have indicated that postmenopausal women who walk approximately one mile each day have higher whole-body bone density than women who walk shorter distances
  • Improve overall fitness. Walking three times a week for 30 minutes at a time can significantly increase cardiorespiratory fitness. Shorter walks improve cardiorespiratory health, too! A study of sedentary women concluded that short brisk walks -- three 10-minute walks per day - were as effective in decreasing body fatness as long bouts and offered similar overall fitness.
Walking is the most popular activity among members of the National Weight Control Registry. The NWCR is a list of 5,000 men and women who have maintained a 30-pound weight loss for a minimum of one year. The current average weight loss among NWCR members is 60 pounds and the average time that loss has been maintained is about five years! The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes or more of accumulated moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days per week to improve health and fitness. Accumulated means you can do it in shorter routines throughout the day. Moderate intensity is indicated by a feeling of warmth and being slightly out of breath. Walking counts! It's easy to incorporate walking into your day and accumulate 30 minutes.
  • Park your car farther from the store.
  • Do you commute? Get off the bus a stop earlier, if you drive, park farther away from the building.
  • Walk to pick up your lunch, or the newspaper.
  • Walk for errands like picking up a gallon of milk or running to the post office instead of driving short distances.
  • Finally, keep your walking shoes handy, and take a quick walk to relieve that stress instead of an aspirin!
If you're beginning a walking routine for the first time, make reasonable goals to help motivate yourself.  Try a daily ten minute walk and increase by a few minutes each week, you'll be taking 30 minute walks in no time!

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