WALKING: A WEALTH OF HEALTH BENEFITS
What if there was a simple fix to some of your most common complaints? Aches and pains, work-related stress, extra pounds around the middle? You’d do it, right? The answer is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other.
Walking is one of the most beneficial physical activities a person can do. It’s often overlooked as an exercise program and, even more often, is neglected altogether by most Americans. The human body is not only designed for daily movement, but it is essential for healthy bodily function! Here are five reasons to get a move on.
1. Improved metabolism
While many of us are aware that physical activity burns calories and contributes to weight control, mobile activities such as walking have more complex metabolic benefits. Metabolism is, “the sum of all biochemical processes within a living organism to maintain life.” When one part gets stronger, such as the cardiovascular or digestive system, your metabolism as a whole improves. Walking strengthens multiple body systems, making you altogether leaner, healthier, and more resilient.
2. Heart health
According to the American Heart Association, regular walking can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. All three conditions are risk factors for heart disease, the number one killer for U.S adults, and stroke, the number four killer.
3. Circulation of vital fluids
Walking creates rhythmic contraction and relaxation of muscles. This results in increased circulation of blood, lymph (fluid rich in white blood cells that cleans out the body), and synovial fluid (joint lubricant). Much of your immune system travels through the blood and lymph, so improved circulation enhances immune function and health in general!
4. Quality sleep
Experts at the National Sleep Foundation say that walking boosts serotonin, the relaxation hormone. If you walk in the afternoon, the rise in body temperature signals your brain to lower the temperature later, which also promotes sleep.
5. Makes you happier
Just one 30-minute walk relieves anxiety, stress, and symptoms of depression. One scientific explanation is that physical activity produces endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in the brain. A common sense explanation? Walking provides a peaceful time of reflection, change of scenery, and even companionship if done with a friend, spouse, or dog. For the biggest emotional boost, head out for a 90-minute walk five times a week.
Walking is easy and it works. It’s one of the safest, least expensive exercise programs, and has the lowest dropout rate. Soon enough, brisk walking can become part of your daily health routine, and you’ll reap plenty of benefits.
By Rachel A. Ewing, RD
Community Health Coordinator
Portneuf Health Care Foundation
July 6, 2014