If better health and fitness is one of your goals, there’s a surprisingly simple way to get there: Walk. While walking may not seem like a big deal, doing so comes with huge benefits. Here’s a closer look at five scientifically proven ways a daily walking routine supports wellness.
1. Improved Heart Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 610,000 people die every year of heart disease in the United States -- that's a quarter of all deaths. Walking is an effective defense against heart disease. According to one study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, just 30 minutes of normal walking for five days a week reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by just under 20 percent.
2. Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Think you don’t have enough time to reap the benefits of walking? Think again. According to research published in Diabetes Care, taking a 15-minute moderate walk after every meal can help keep glucose levels in check. The takeaway? With experts proclaiming diabetes to be the “largest epidemic in human history,” walking can be an invaluable preventative measure against the disease.
3. Joint Pain Relief
Arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus and fibromyalgia are all associated with debilitating joint pain. Unfortunately, lack of physical activity can make the problem worse, not better. Enter walking. According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, regular walking improves range of motion and offers pain relief. Assert the editors, “Walking is a low-impact, acceptable, convenient, inexpensive, feasible, and proven physical activity intervention that can help reduce arthritis pain, improve function, and move persons with arthritis along the continuum of physical activity.”
4. Better Immune Function
“Poor health is compounded by many factors, including exercise avoidance and increased risk of opportunistic infection,” proposes research published in the academic journal, Arthritis Research & Therapy. Walking is one way to reverse this phenomenon. According to the study, after just ten weeks of high-intensity interval walking, participants saw reduced disease activity and improved innate immune function.
5. Weight Management
Obesity is another epidemic threatening public health. According to the long-running Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, walking briskly for an hour a day can cut your genetic tendency toward obesity in half by reducing the activity of genes that promote weight gain. Want to further reduce the weight-promoting effect of these genes? Cut back on sedentary activities, like watching television. “We suggest that both increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior can lower the genetic predisposition to obesity,” concludes researcher Qibin Wi of Harvard School of Public Health.
If you haven’t yet embraced the many extraordinary benefits of walking, there’s no better time than now. You don’t have to jump right into it, either: Even a 10-minute walk can promote better fitness -- so commit to starting small and working your way up from there.
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