What are the health benefits of walking?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Walking is great for your brain, body and stress level. Here's some good news: It's even better than you think.
  • Walking goes after belly fat. Been wondering whether strength training or aerobics (brisk walking, biking, swimming, dance classes) is better for flattening abdominal fat? Aerobics busts up abdominal fat -- the deep, risky, "visceral" belly fat that raises your risk for diabetes and heart disease.
  • Walking adds years to your life. To get more life out of your walks, just pick up the pace. You don’t have to walk any longer. Simply add several short, 30-second bursts of faster-than-usual walking to your routine. In between these mini-power walks, return to your usual pace. This alone could add an extra four to five years to your life.

More energy. A short, brisk walk has both a calming and an energizing effect, according to research. And walking may help you feel more alert and well-rested because of its ability to improve the quality of your sleep. Walking at a moderate pace later in the day can help encourage deep, restful sleep. Finally, the mood boost you experience from walking may further enhance your energy levels.

A better night's sleep. In a study, people who walked more than six blocks per day reduced their sleep problems by one third. Walking at a brisk pace cut their sleep problems in half.

Thinking more clearly. Need to sort out some things in your head? Few activities help improve your perspective as quickly as a brisk walk, which will boost circulation in all parts of the body, including your brain. Some research has also shown that walking is associated with less cognitive decline and a reduced risk of dementia later in life. In addition to improving cognitive function, walking regularly can help you handle stressful situations and help you remain in control of your emotions, which clears the path for straight thinking.

Protect myself from diseases. Here is a short list of ways that walking can reduce the impacts of disease. Moderately intense activities such as walking can:

  • Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 30 to 50 percent
  • Decrease osteoarthritis pain and improve stability, endurance, and agility
  • Reduce the risk of colon cancer and possibly breast cancer
  • Protect against diabetes in high-risk people and lower blood glucose and improve insulin action in diabetics
  • Lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack

Lose weight. Although you might think that losing weight is the only way to enjoy an improved health profile, the truth is that regular walkers may not have to worry quite as much about what the scale says. Studies show that thin, sedentary people may have more markers of heart disease risk than overweight people who exercise regularly.

Feel happier in general. Protecting and nurturing your mental health is an important part of overall wellness, and studies show that walking regularly has the ability to lower your stress levels. Also, studies show that aerobic exercise such as walking may bring long-term benefits to your mental disposition by warding off both depression and anxiety.

Walking has loads of benefits! Below are just some of many:

  • Increased stamina
  • Increased energy
  • Increased bone density
  • Strong heart and lungs
  • Great aerobic activity
  • Light impact

As you can see, walking is great for your mind and body. Enjoy!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.