5 Little-Known Benefits of Walking

by | May 16, 2016

You know you need to exercise to improve your health. But there are two things keeping you back: time and money. You don’t have the money to join a gym or the time to participate on a sports team. Fortunately, you can maintain good health with an activity that’s easy and completely free: walking.

In pursuing the latest new exercise methods, many people have forgotten how many benefits they can enjoy from a simple walking routine. You probably already know that walking can help you lose weight and gain energy. But did you know these other surprising benefits of walking?

1. Decreases Breast Cancer Risk

Studies show that women who walk have a lower risk for breast cancer. In one study of 74,171 postmenopausal women, researchers found that women who walked for 1.25 to 2.5 hours a week-or did an equivalent physical activity-had an 18% lower risk for breast cancer than inactive women.

2. Lowers Blood Pressure

Did you know that walking can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease? One study found that walking decreased resting diastolic blood pressure. Diastolic blood pressure measures your blood pressure in between heartbeats, and a high diastolic blood pressure indicates a greater risk for heart disease and stroke. Thus, those with lower diastolic blood pressure are less at risk for heart disease and stroke.

3. Improves Mood

If you’re feeling depressed, regular walking might improve your mood. In a five-month walking study, women reported a decrease in depressive mood and an increase in vigor after they began walking regularly.

4. Increases Life for Diabetics

If you have diabetes, you know how important it is to manage your health. Studies show that walking can actually lower your mortality rate. In one study, the authors surveyed 2,896 adults with diabetes. They found that those who walked at least two hours a week had a 39% lower mortality rate than those who did not walk. Those who walked three or four hours a week fared even better.

5. Improves Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Along with improving your physical body, walking also benefits the brain. Researchers measured early-stage Alzheimer’s patients’ cognition. A year later, they measured it again. They found that sedentary patients’ scores decreased, while active patients’ scores did not. Amazingly, they found that those who walked two hours a week actually improved their cognition scores.

Ready to Start?

Walking has more benefits than most people realize. But if you’re new to walking, it can cause undesired foot pain. Follow these tips to lower your risk of foot pain:

  • Start out slow. If you’re not accustomed to walking, suddenly going for a two-hour walk might be too much. Start out with a mild walk around your neighborhood. Each day, gradually increase your walking time and intensity.
  • Wear the right shoes. Choose shoes that support your arch, heel, and soles. Ask your foot doctor about orthotics if you think they would benefit you.
  • Take the right position. To avoid pain and injury, walk with your head up, shoulders back, back straight, and arms swinging at your sides.
  • Watch your gait. As you take a step forward, place your heel down first, and then roll the pressure from your heel to your toe. If walking causes you pain, ask a foot doctor to evaluate your gait.
  • Vary your setting. To find enjoyment in daily walking, pick different walking locations. You can try neighborhoods, trails, and even the mall. Walk with a buddy so you can motivate each other.

Now that you know all the benefits of walking, what are you waiting for? Grab your walking shoes and hit the trail. As you begin your new walking routine, talk to your foot doctor if you experience any foot pain.

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