Walking 30 minutes every day can improve your health in more ways than you might expect. Not only is walking a fantastic, low-impact form of cardiovascular exercise, it can vastly improve your mental and emotional health and help with every wellness goal from stress to sleep. Not many people recognize walking as a real exercise. Perhaps it’s too easy, ordinary, enjoyable, or relaxing to be considered a serious form of exercise, says Michael Lam MD, MPH, ABAAM, a physician specializing in nutrition and healthy aging. [But] the best thing about this wonderful activity is that it’s one of the easiest exercises you can do on a regular basis.
However, the challenge is to make walking (or steady movement in general) a regular part of your daily routine. Many health coaches, doctors, and fitness trainers will tell you that the best form of exercise is one you actually maintain, says Dr. lamb to learn how to walk 30 minutes (or more!) every day, we asked medical experts to explain why walking every day is good for the whole body and how to do it makes a habit.
Daily Walking Benefits
Walking improves heart health.
There’s a reason walking is hailed as one of the best forms of exercise for heart health. The National Heart Foundation of Australia estimates that walking for 30 minutes or more every day can reduce the risk of heart disease and reduce the risk of stroke by a whopping 35 percent. Also, daily walking can help you maintain a healthy weight, metabolism, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol, all of which help keep your heart healthy. Even if you can’t commit to 30 minutes a day, it turns out that even a little walking is better than none when it comes to our hearts (yes, vigorous vacuuming, playing with the kids, walking the dog, and so long carry on grocery count everyone!).
Walking lowers stress and improves mood.
It’s no secret that exercise is a well-researched and proven way to reduce stress. Walking releases endorphins, a feel-good chemical in the body that promotes states of joy like laughter and love. Endorphins interact with receptors in the brain and produce a feeling of well-being, increased self-esteem, increased pain tolerance, and even a feeling of euphoria that’s often referred to as runner’s high, explains Dr. lamb Walking really makes you feel happy. A 2018 study found that even single, short 10-minute walks improved participants’ mood. Being active affects the way our brains process neurotransmitters like dopamine, explains clinical psychologist Allison Grupski, PhD, vice president of behavior changes strategies. It has an immediate effect.
Walking reduces depression.
Research shows that physical activity, including walking, can reduce depression. For example, a study of 121 postmenopausal women found that those who walked for 40 minutes straight three times a week had a significant decrease in depression associated with a significantly lower risk of depression compared to adults who did not exercise . Depression affects millions of people worldwide and is a leading cause of disability worldwide, says Brian Shinkle, DO, medical director at Pivot Onsite Innovations and Pivot Occupational Health, who specializes in occupational medicine. Data has long shown the benefits of exercise in reducing depression.
Walking strengthens your joints.
Shinkle says walking can play a big role in reducing the development and progression of osteoarthritis, a form of arthritis that affects the joints. Exercise has long been shown to be beneficial in treating and preventing osteoarthritis: a recent study shows that walking can reduce pain and slow the progression of the disease, he says. Researchers found that people who exercised had a 40 percent reduction in developing new common knee pain compared to a group who didn’t exercise. Exercise [like walking] has numerous health benefits and should always be a first approach to preventing and treating degenerative joint disease, Shinkle adds.
Walking controls your blood sugar.
A meta-analysis of data from more than 300,000 participants made an important discovery: those who walked regularly had a 30 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is because walking can help control or lower blood sugar. Brisk walking (faster than 20 minutes per mile) was associated with a 41 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, a study of 201 people with type 2 diabetes found that every extra 2,600 steps of walking per day was associated with a 0.2 percent lower A1c, or blood sugar level.
Walking boosts immune function.
Another health benefit of walking every day: Researchers believe exercise can significantly boost immune function, potentially leading to changes in the antibodies and white blood cells that help your body fight off disease. The temporary rise in body temperature can also prevent bacterial growth while slowing the release of stress hormones (which can increase your risk of illness). Also, walking can flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways, reducing the chance of catching cold and flu viruses.
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