Did you know that every minute you walk can extend your life by 1.5 to 2 minutes? In addition, many studies show that people who walk regularly live longer, weigh less, have lower blood pressure, and enjoy better overall health than non-walkers.
Ready to lace on your shoes? If you want to add to the amount of walking you do, just clip on a pedometer. That simple action actually increases your physical activity by over 2100 steps per day, a review that pooled data from 26 studies found.
Here’s a look at ten benefits of walking.
Walking Increases Your Lifespan
Walking more than an hour a day improves life expectancy significantly, a 2011 study showed. The researchers looked at 27,738 participants between the ages of 40 and 79 over a 13-year period. Surprisingly, their lifetime medical costs did not increase—even though they lived longer.
“An increase in walking time at the population level would bring about a tremendous change in people’s health and medical cost,” the study authors wrote.
Walking Wards Off Diabetes
Just thirty minutes of walking a day can prevent diseases such as type 2 diabetes, a 2002 study looking at both overweight and average weight men and women in a population at high risk for the disease showed.
If you already have diabetes, walking is helpful for you, too. A mile or more daily cuts your risk of death from all causes in half, according to a 2007 study.
Walking Keeps Your Mind Sharp
Walking 72 blocks a week (around six to nine miles) helps increase grey matter, which in turn lowers the risk of suffering from cognitive impairment—or trouble with concentration, memory and thought, according to a study which looked at 299 seniors over a nine-year period.
Furthermore, walking five miles per week can provide some protection to the memory and learning areas of the brains of those already suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment, and lead to a slower decline in memory loss.
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Walking Helps Lower Blood Pressure
Walking just 30 minutes a day, three to five days a week—even when the 30 minutes are broken into three ten-minute increments—has been found to significantly lower blood pressure.
Walking is Great for Bone Health
Putting one foot in front of the other for about a mile a day led to improved bone density in post-menopausal women, and slowed the rate of bone loss from the legs, according to a 1994 study. “It takes walkers four to seven years longer to reach the point of very low bone density, study leader Dr. Krall told the New York Times.
Walking Cuts the Risk of Stroke
Walking about 12.5 miles a week or more cut the risk of stroke in half, according to a study looking at over 11,000 Harvard University alumni with an average age of 58.
Walking Improves Your Mood
If you’re feeling down in the dumps, walking is a quick and easy solution. Just thirty minutes on a treadmill reduces feelings of tension and depression, according to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. In fact, the study found that walking lifted moods more quickly than anti-depressants did (and with fewer side effects).
And the more people walk, the better their mood and energy, says California State University Long Beach professor Robert Thayer, based on a study looking at 37 study participants over a 20-day period.
Walking Torches Calories
Just 20 minutes of walking a day will burn 7 pounds a year. The effects are even more dramatic when you add in some dietary changes as well.
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Walking Improves Insomnia
Having trouble sleeping at night? Try taking a brisk 45-minute walk in the morning five days a week, and your sleep may improve significantly, according to research from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, which looked at women from the age of 50-74. (Walking in the evening, however, sometimes has the opposite effect—so keep an eye on when you’re exercising and what your sleep patterns are.)
Walking is Good for the Heart
Women who took brisk walks for three or more hours per week reduced their risk of heart disease by 30-40 percent, according to an analysis of over 72,000 women aged 40-65, who were enrolled in the prospective Nurses’ Health Study. As I reported recently, heart attacks kill more US women than men annually. However, the benefits of walking aren’t limited to one gender. A different study showed that walking can cut the risk of coronary heart disease in half for men between the ages of 71 and 93.