Walking is great for weight loss, but the benefits go far beyond—from higher energy and better mood to stress relief, a creativity boost, and more.
- Whether you’re just having a down day or a down life, taking a walk can lift your mood—especially when you go outdoors, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study participants who averaged 200 minutes of walking every week reported higher energy levels, better emotional health, and a more robust social life when researchers followed up after three years.
Stumped for an idea? Take a quick stroll around the block. Whether you need a solution to a problem at work or you’re looking for inspiration for your novel, walking gets your creative juices flowing in all areas. One Stanford University study found that walking can boost creative output by 60 percent.
You don’t need to avoid exercise if you have experienced exercise-induced asthma. You just need to find the right exercise in the right conditions. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says walking, along with swimming, golfing and leisure biking, is less likely to irritate your airways. More generally, look for activities you can do in warm weather and which don’t require significant endurance.
Want to live longer? Walk. But speed things up to get the longevity benefit. According to the Mayo Clinic, research has shown that brisk walking can increase your lifespan, more so than those who had a slower pace.
Getting a solid eight hours snoozing in the sack is one of the most important things you can do for your health. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. Thankfully a brisk walk may be all you need. According to the Sleep Foundation, researchers have found that people who exercised regularly, including walking, fell asleep more quickly, slept longer, and had better quality sleep than those who did vigorous exercise or lifted weights.
Raise your hand if you’re stressed out. OK, OK, put both your hands back down. Most of us swim in a pool of stress every day and that takes a serious toll on our mental and physical health. But science says walking is one of the fastest, most effective ways to calm down. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, a simple 10-minute walk may be as effective as a 45-minute workout in terms of reducing anxiety and depression. Moving clears cortisol, the “stress hormone”, out of your system and also helps stop the never-ending stream of worries going through your mind.
It’s official: Walking is also good for your brain. Researchers at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) discovered that when you walk, your foot’s impact on the ground sends pressure waves through the arteries that increase blood flow to the brain. Even better, walking protects your brain by lessening your risk of getting cognitive illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Chronic pain has been called a silent epidemic, with an estimated 100 million Americans currently living with it. And if you’re one of those people battling daily pain the last thing you probably want to do is get up and go for a walk. But a study published in the Annals of Rehabilitative Medicine found that a regular walking routine diminished chronic lower back pain in study participants. Walking may not be able to cure chronic pain, but it can help you deal with it better. Find out which common walking mistake causes 11,000 injuries every year.
Bone density may not be one of the most exciting health benefits of walking, but it’s an important one. People with stronger bones avoid osteoporosis and all the problems that come with it like fractures, disability, and spine shrinkage (seriously, you can get shorter). And the best way to get strong, healthy bones is by doing weight-bearing exercises like running, dancing and, yes, walking, says the American Bone Health Association. Researchers found that walking programs that lasted more than six months were associated with “significant and positive effects” in bone density of the hip bone.
Taking a walk alone can be great for clearing your head or blowing off some steam but walking can also provide a great opportunity to bond with friends and family—far away from electronics and other distractions at home. Even better, you set a powerful example because when they see you reaping the benefits of walking, they’ll be encouraged to walk more, too.
Exercise in general, and walking in particular, has been referred to as a “miracle drug” for its ability to lower risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Let’s be honest, there doesn’t seem to be a single health condition that it can’t help in some way. And unlike real drugs, walking has no side effects, is easily accessible, affordable, effective, and best of all you don’t need a prescription!