Why I love walking:
Walking is my personal favorite form of low-intensity cardiovascular training. Walking is one of the most easily accessible forms of cardiovascular training almost anyone can take on. At most, it requires shoes and space (or a treadmill), which most people have access to on a daily basis. Walking can be used to engage in daily meditation, exercise, education, and so much more. I personally walk while listening to podcasts or YouTube videos regarding fitness and health education. Sometimes, I’ll walk in silence just to observe the scene around me and/or partake in meditation and self-reflection. Walking brings about many different potential health benefits including but not limited to: weight management, improved cardiovascular health, and improved mental health. This article will discuss what I believe are the three main health benefits of daily walking.
Walking is one of the most conveniently beneficial exercises for long-term weight management. As mentioned above, walking mostly only requires shoes and space (or a treadmill) to engage in as a regular activity making it fairly convenient for most people to do. This activity can be practiced daily with relatively no post-exercise soreness (depending on your walking duration, frequency, and intensity) making it less likely to interfere with other training activities and/or other daily activities. Daily walking can help maintain weight loss, even of substantial amounts.
A study published in the Obesity Society: Obesity Journal compared physical activity energy expenditure and total daily energy expenditure in successful weight loss maintainers with two control groups: normal weight and overweight/obesity controls. The weight loss group maintained a 26.2 kg (~58 lb) weight loss for 9 years. The results of this study found that the physical activity expenditure of the weight loss maintainers was significantly higher than that of the control groups (normal weight and overweight/obese groups). This study was not specific to walking, however, it did include the daily average step counts of each group. The weight loss maintainers averaged a step count of 12,256 steps daily while the normal control group averaged 9,047 steps daily. The overweight/obese group averaged step counts of 7,072 steps daily during this study. This study suggests that a higher amount of daily expenditure is necessary in order to successfully maintain weight loss. Aiming for step counts of 10-12,000 per day is advised to reach these optimal levels of daily expenditure.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Walking brings about many cardiovascular health benefits. According to a report mentioned in the Harvard Health Publishing article entitled “Walking: Your Steps to Health,” walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31% in both men and women, even at a relatively slow pace and short distance (2 mi/hr, 5.5 miles per week). Walking was also found to improve cardiac risk factors such as “cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness/inflammation, and mental stress.” Despite those cardiovascular health benefits, walking was also found to be helpful in the prevention of “dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, colon cancer, and even erectile dysfunction.” Walking for longer distances and/or at faster paces are known to bring about even greater health benefits.
Improved Mental Health
Walking also brings about many psychological health benefits. According to research findings mentioned in the C3 Collaborating for Health Walking Report, walking was found to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression “resulting in [improved] quality of life and reductions in the medical costs associated with treating these disorders.” Walking was also found to improve cognitive performance. Cognitive performance measures mental processes such as “thinking, understanding and remembering.” Mentioned in the C3 Collaborating for Health Walking Report are many more mental health walking benefits including:
- reduced physical symptoms of anxiety associated w/ minor stress
- increased self‐reported energy levels when older adults set their own pace
- improved quality of sleep
- better cognitive performance at school
- improved cognitive performance/reduced cognitive decline among older adults
- increased size of the hippocampus & prefrontal cortex (directly affecting memory)
(List provided directly from https://www.c3health.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/C3-report-on-walking-v-1-20120911.pdf)
As mentioned in the list above, regular walking provides many potential mental health benefits to everyone who participates. If you are struggling with mental health disorders (i.e. depression, anxiety, eating disorders) and/or show signs and symptoms of said disorders, seek help from a medical professional for treatment. The ideas, suggestions and comments made in this article are not to be prescribed as a method of treatment for any type of mental health disorder.
Article’s MVPs – Most Valuable Points:
- Walking can increase daily energy expenditure leading to successful weight loss maintenance, even of substantial amounts.
- Walking can improve a multitude of cardiovascular health variables including but not limited to: cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
- Walking can improve many mental health variables including but not limited to: cognitive performance, depression/anxiety symptoms, sleep quality, and stress.
It’s a beautiful day to go for a walk!