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8 Ways Walking Improves Health, Happiness, and Longevity

8 Ways Walking Improves Health, Happiness, and Longevity

How walking improves health, happiness, and longevity

One of the most basic forms of exercise that helps you stay in shape can also garner multiple benefits to help you live a happier, healthier and longer life. Adding regular walks to your schedule could just be the medicine you need, and here are 8 ways how:  

1. Walking strengthens your immunity

In this age of coronavirus (and all its latest versions), we need to form sustainable habits that strengthen our immune system – walking could be the most convenient place to start. A study of 1,000 men and women found that those who walked 5 times a week, for at least 20 minutes, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. The more prolific walkers also had milder symptoms and shorter sickness durations. 

Another study found that people who walk more spend less time in the hospital. This is because moderate-intensity exercise like walking can boost the immune system by increasing the number of pathogen-fighting cells in the body, therefore decreasing the risk of catching infectious diseases. 

2. Walking Makes You Happier

A 2018 study reported that bouts of just 10-minute walks can significantly improve your mood. This could be because walking releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the body that interact with receptors in the brain to promote states of pleasure and also increase pain tolerance, self-esteem and even a sense of euphoria also known as a ‘runner’s high’. Research suggests that walking regularly can alter your nervous system and affect how your brain processes neurotransmitters like dopamine to reduce feelings of tension, anxiety, depression and anger – especially when you take a walk where there is greenery. This can prove to be an especially beneficial habit during the colder months when seasonal depression is at a high. 

In addition, studies show that walking is an effective method to reduce cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. So when work or life is feeling all too heavy, get yourself out and moving!   

3. Walking Adds Years to Your Life

If you want a chance to play with your great-grandkids, better get up on your feet—all you need is 10 minutes a day! One study found that people who did moderate exercise like brisk walking for 10 to 59 minutes per week had an 18% lower risk of death compared to those who were sedentary during the period of the study. And participants who met the recommended 150 minutes in at least 10-minute spurts had a 31% reduced risk of dying. In addition, research shows that the faster you walk, the more your risk drops. The cardiorespiratory workout that walking provides is thought to be the key reason for the longevity benefit. 

In addition, a 2020 study even found that those who walked regularly could reduce their risk of deadly pneumonia compared to those who don’t exercise regularly.  

4. Walking Improves Heart Health

The National Heart Foundation of Australia reports that walking about 30 minutes or more per day can reduce the risk of heart disease and lower the risk of stroke by 35%. In addition, a 2023 study supports that every 500 additional steps taken daily, especially for older adults, was linked with a 14% lower risk of stroke, heart disease or heart failure. And the benefits of walking daily, like helping you maintain a healthy weight, metabolism, blood cholesterol and blood pressure, all keep your heart healthy too.

5. Walking Lowers the Risk of Chronic Diseases 

One study found that walking 8200 steps or more can effectively reduce the risk of chronic conditions like sleep apnea, obesity, major depressive disorder (MDD), diabetes, hypertension and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The study reports that walking even more than 8200 steps can improve all the health conditions studied. Another 2022 study further confirms that you can reduce your risk for a range of chronic diseases by including walking in your routine. 

And because walking can help control or lower blood sugar, it can also lower the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. A meta-analysis of data from more than 300,000 participants reported that those who walked regularly had a 30% lower risk of developing type-2 diabetes and walking at a brisk pace (faster than 20 minutes per mile) was linked with a 41% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. 

In addition, a study by the American Cancer Society found that women who walked seven or more hours a week has a 14% reduced risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this advantage even for the women with breast cancer risk factors like those who were using supplemental hormones or were overweight. 

6. Walking Strengthens Bones and Joints 

According to Mayo Clinic, walking works directly on the bones in your hips, legs and lower spine to slow density loss. A 2022 study found that long-term brisk walking is a beneficial way to improve bone density, especially if done for thirty minutes per day, three or more times a week, to prevent bone loss in premenopausal women. In addition, walking can play a huge role in reducing the development and progression of osteoarthritis, a form of arthritis that affects the joints. A 2020 study found that walking can slow the progression of the disease and alleviate pain. The participants had a 40% reduction in the development of new frequent knee pain as compared to the participants that didn’t walk. This could be because pounding the pavement strengthens the muscles around the joints and increases blood flow to tense areas, like joint cartilage that has no direct blood supply. Therefore, walking can help bring nutrients and oxygen to these areas.  

7. Walking Boosts Cognitive Function

That’s right, when you just can’t concentrate and your brain’s gone dud, go for a walk!  A 2017 study found that brain scans of people who walked briskly for one hour, three times a week showed the decision-making areas of their brains worked much better than people who attended education seminars instead. In addition, a study of 6000 women of ages 65 and older, shows that age-related memory decline was 8% lower in those who walked 2.5 miles daily as opposed to those who walked less than half a mile per week. Another study found that men aged 71 to 93 years who walked more than 2 miles per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than those who walked less than a quarter of a mile per day. 

8. Walking Relieves Insomnia 

Having trouble sleeping? A walk could be the cure. A 2019 study reported that postmenopausal women who do light to moderate-intensity exercise sleep more soundly than those who don’t exercise. This is because moderate aerobic exercise can increase the production of nighttime melatonin, the sleep hormone, improving sleep quality and circadian rhythm regulation. Another 2019 study further supports this by showing that middle-aged women and men who took more steps had a positive impact on the length and quality of their sleep as compared to those less active. In addition, walking also helps reduce stress and pain which can cause disturbances to your sleep. 

So put on your kicks and start taking yourself out regularly for a healthier body and mind, a happier mood, and a longer life. And no need to do it alone. You can make it even more fun by walking with your loved ones and using that time to develop stronger connections while doing something amazing for yourself. And remember, walking the dog, going on a grocery run, and taking a virtual meeting on your feet all count, too!

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