Walking regularly can help reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which contribute to heart disease.
According to the long-term Nurses’ Health Study, which follows the habits and health of 72,000 female nurses, three hours of brisk walking each week (that’s just 30 minutes per day) can lower a woman’s risk of heart disease by 30% to 40%.
A 2001 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise found that sedentary women with high blood pressure reduced their systolic blood pressure and body mass by walking 9,700 steps per day at a self-selected pace for 24 weeks.
Harvard researchers looked at 11,000 men and determined that one hour of regular, moderate exercise (equivalent to brisk walking), done five days a week, may cut a man’s risk of stroke in half.
Strengthens bones and joints: Walking is easier on your joints than higher-impact activities like running or aerobics, but it still helps reduce your risk for osteoporosis and reduces your risk of falls.
Consistent activity, like walking, reduces one’s risk of hip fracture, according to a study of more than 30,000 men and women ages 20 to 93.
A review of 24 studies on aerobic exercise and bone mineral density in women suggests that walking just 30 minutes per day a few times a week is enough to increase bone density by a moderate amount (about two percent) compared to non-exercisers. Walking was the preferred form of exercise by most participants.
Weight control Walking may seem like a leisurely activity, but with the right intensity, it can elevate your heart rate and burn serious calories so you can reach and maintain a healthy weight.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity suggested that 30 minutes of walking on most days of the week may be as beneficial for weight loss as 60 minutes of walking (in combination with diet).
Researchers from the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center say that simply walking for 15 minutes (or about 2,000 steps) and eating a couple fewer bites of food can help you prevent future weight gain.
Without changing diet, a review of pedometer-based walking programs found that participants who take 2,000 to 4,000 steps per day (that’s about 1 to 2 miles) can still expect modest weight loss (about five pounds per year).
Benefits for the Mind A long list of mental health benefits have been attributed to exercise, including reduced depression, better sleep, and more.
Sedentary women who engaged in a walking program reported improved mental and emotional satisfaction and a decrease in stress, according to a Journal of Holistic Nursing article published in 2006.
Women & Health published another study that measured 128 sedentary, ethnic-minority women. Researchers found that participants who walked more reported increases in positive mental health and well being.
Another of 124 sedentary older adults found that those started walking for 45 minutes three times per week for six months performed substantially better on several cognitive tasks than those who did stretching or strengthening exercises. Researchers, whose study was published in Nature, think that their improved cardiorespiratory fitness increased blood flow to the brain, which helped improve brain function.
So what are you waiting for?
Say to yourself, “I promise to walk more everyday.” Make a very specific promise with a plan. Then create a series of steps to meet and keep your promise. For example, my promise is to walk one km or 15 mins every day. Once you have accomplished that increase to 30 mins every day. Below are the steps to help keep that promise:
Step One – Get committed. Look at your life and determine how and where you will walk. The great thing about a one-mile walk is that over time, you will be able to walk it in less than fifteen minutes. Those who already have walking mastered can make it more difficult by adding hills, hand weights, faster times, or incorporating a few minutes of running. Going for your daily walk is not only important for the physical benefits but the “above the neck” benefits. Concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress, is released when we get our bodies in motion. So, let’s get walking.
Step Two – Map it out. Block off days and times you will devote to your promise walk at the top of the week. Check your calendar, write the walk down, and attach a time and location, depending on your schedule. This may mean driving half a mile from your home and marking the spot so you know exactly how far a mile is from your house. Using the local high school is also a great option; four times around the track is one mile. One mile on a treadmill is easy to monitor, or take a buddy to the park where mile loops are typically marked. Another great benefit to walking is that the equipment is rather simple. All you need are comfortable clothes, but even jeans or a suit should not stop you from your walk. However, I’d recommend purchasing some really good walking/cross trainer shoes, since your body is top priority. Also, a stop watch on your phone works great and a pedometer so you can track your steps.
Step Three – Determine your level. If you have never walked before, a simple way to start is incorporating five minutes of warm-up, five minutes of brisk walking, and five minutes of cool-down. Add a few minutes of brisk walking each week until you reach your mile, then you can begin subtracting those minutes. For all the walking pros out there, use the promise walk as an opportunity to see just how fast you can walk a mile. Continue building upon the promise by adding more distance onto your walk within the fifteen minutes.
Step Four – Meet the needs of your body. Key elements to making your promise walk a success is meeting the needs of your body. Taking your vitamins, staying hydrated, and properly fueling is essential to keeping the walking promise alive. To stay hydrated, drink a glass of water one hour before and again right after your walk, and also be sure to get in a few gulps during your exercise to stay energized. Be sure to properly fuel your body for daily living and also physical activity with a balanced nutrition of lean proteins, fats, and carbs.
Step Five – Grab a buddy. This is one of my favorite tips because having someone else to lean on to help you stay on track when you don’t feel like walking or just having someone ask you how your walk was is important. Find someone with a similar promise or make the promise to walk together. Choose someone you enjoy spending time with. Plus, it’s always safer when you have someone to walk with you. Your buddy can even help track your progress or do it yourself with awesome apps available for your phone, tablet and computer.
The promise to walk a km every day is doable, fun, specific and definitely has a plan. Remember, when creating any promise this year, think of it like a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it gets.
My W.E.A.L.T.H. Program goes beyond weight management and into the realm of lifelong wellness and vitality.