health benefits of walking

Health benefits of walking

Want to improve your health and fitness but daunted by the idea of tough aerobic classes and hardcore strength training? Don't sweat it; simple walking can help take your fitness up a notch. Not only that, but it can also help reduce your risk of chronic disease, and in some cases, has even been shown to increase longevity!

Benefits of walking

An analysis of 18 walking studies showed that in all, walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31% and reduced the risk of dying (during the study period) by 32%. Those who walked longer, at a faster pace, or both, garnered the most benefit.

In addition to improving your overall health, walking boasts numerous health benefits. It can help to:

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  • Reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Manage your weight
  • Lower LOL (bad) cholesterol
  • Raise HOL (good) cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve your mood
  • Improve the connectivity of brain circuits

Walk this way

Experts recommend 30 minutes of brisk walking 5 days a week. You can help yourself stay motivated by wearing a pedometer to track your progress (2,000 steps equals about a mile and 10,000 steps a day is roughly equivalent to 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise). You can gauge your intensity by steps per minute: 80 steps is considered a leisurely pace; 100 is moderate to brisk; and 120 steps is a fast pace.

All time shown
in minutes
Warm-up time Brisk-walk time Cool-down time Total time
WEEKS 1-2 5 5 5 15
WEEKS 3-4 5 10 5 20
WEEKS 5-6 5 15 5 25
WEEKS 7-8 5 20 5 30
WEEKS 9-10 5 25 5 35
WEEKS 11-12 5 30 5 40
WEEKS 13-14 5 35 5 45
WEEKS 15-16 5 40 5 50
WEEKS 17-18 5 45 5 55
WEEKS 19-20 5 50 5 60

Join a walking club

Want to combine fitness, socialization and fun? Ask a friend, spouse or neighbor to join you in your walking jaunts. Or, you can join a walking group -or form your own. Be sure the group consists of motivated walkers, with skill levels on par with your own. You don't want to get discouraged when you can't keep up, nor do you want to lose your motivation if people in your group are more interested in socializing than exercising. (Just be sure you're more interested in exercising!)

Remember, for the most benefit, walk at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week at a brisk pace. If that's too much to begin with, start out at a slower pace. Use this sample daily walking program from the National Institutes of Health as a guide to get you started. You may want to walk more or less depending on your ability and the advice of your healthcare provider.

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Join in the conversations:
Showing comment(s)
January 14, 2012
I LOVE the pic of the dog in your article. Nothing is more condusive to getting me out for a walk than coming home to my our adorable pup. And his schedule is so much more flexible than my husband's or friends'.
February 6, 2011
If you don't have a dog of your own, I've heard that animal shelters may welcome dog-walkers/volunteers.
Dr. Fran
September 18, 2012
Exercise is good for both you and your dog but if you planning to walk vigorously, you should probably avoid breeds like bulldogs, Boston terrier, and pugs. Because of their pushed-in noses, they are less efficient breathers so they tend to overheat more easily than you'd find with other breeds. Regardless of the breed, if you're including your pooch on your walks, please take along poop bags.
May 28, 2012
Good article. Here are a few more walking tips from the April 2012 issue of Reader's Digest: 1) By itself, walking probably won't help you to lose weight: you almost always have to combine it with a change in diet, 2) It helps to "surprise" your body by varying your workout intensity, and 3) In order to lose weight, you have to push it a bit -- if possible, to the point where it is difficult to carry on a conversation as your talking.
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