Many people overlook the benefits of walking as a form of exercise for improving health. This is surprising because walking is one of the easiest things you can do on your own. It doesn’t require a lot of special gear, any technology, or expert coaching. And you don’t need a gym membership to make it happen. All you need is a pair of good tennis shoes and comfortable clothing that allows the necessary freedom of movement. The best thing is that it is really good for nearly all age groups.
Remember the phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Walking daily is a lot like that. A study carried out on sedentary people revealed that “those who engaged in daily moderate exercise, such as a brisk walk, experienced anti-aging benefits that could add an additional three to seven years to your life,” compared to those who do not.
Walking is a low impact exercise, so it is less likely to cause injuries than running or jogging. Even so, it has numerous benefits as highlighted below:
Walking daily improves your mood
Walking triggers your body to produce natural pain killing endorphins, also known as “happy hormones”. These hormones serve to elevate your mood after a walk, and there is a direct correlation between the time spent walking and degree of mood lift. What does this mean? It means that negative feelings like anxiety, stress and anger can be reduced, and even replaced with a sense of well-being. Want more of that positivity? Go walking with your spouse, friend, kids or a neighbor to magnify these results. It’s also a great way to form a deeper connection with the people who matter to you.
Walking helps to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases
According to the American Diabetes Association, walking has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and the risk for diabetes. Another study revealed that walking just 2 miles a day can reduce the risk of getting chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPF) by half.
And yet another study demonstrated that walking daily can lessen the risk of stroke in men between the ages of 50-60. They found that men in this age group who walked for 30-60 minutes daily reduced the risk of getting a stroke by one-third. They found that this is true whether one walks slowly or briskly, so pace isn’t as important as the time one spends walking.
Walking can spark your creativity
Sometimes when you are faced with challenges at work or in your personal life, taking a walk can help you to find solutions to your problems. A research study published in the Journal of experimental psychology, learning, memory and cognition revealed that taking a walk can trigger greater levels of creativity. It can help to clear your mind and make you see things in a different perspective. The late Steve Jobs, Apple’s iconic CEO, loved to take long walks while having serious conversations…about the company’s visionary products, markets to enter, and the brand in general.
Walking for weight management
When you walk regularly, you’ll find that it aids in weight management. Walking increases metabolism by getting rid of extra calories and preventing muscle loss, which is necessary as you age. It also improves how the body responds to insulin, which can directly reduce belly fat – which itself is a risk factor for certain degenerative diseases.
How do you incorporate walking into your schedule?
- Schedule it like an exercise routine – You can probably wake up a little earlier to squeeze in a 30 minute walk first thing in the morning. This will not only help you achieve the goal of daily exercise, it will also help you start the day with a better outlook and less anxiety.
- Walk after lunch – A lot of people find that adding a lunchtime walk is a great way to reset from their morning and prepare for a productive afternoon. Plus, some people find that it helps them eat more mindfully if they have a walk planned, so they are less likely to eat a heavy meal. That’s a powerful win-win.
- Creating opportunities to walk more – Stop taking the elevator/escalator and use the stairs instead. Or look for a great parking spot further away from the front door of your workplace, supermarket or mall. Going for nearby? Why not walk there instead of hopping into the car? If you take public transportation like a bus, metro rail or subway, can you get off one stop earlier than normal and walk the last segment?
As with any form of exercise, walking can only work if you plan it consistently into your life. Be creative and flexible and you’ll find a way to start walking more. Of course, you should consult with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program.
At Houston Foot and Ankle Care, we see patients who have never exercised a day in their lives as well as those who are totally committed to a fitness program of some sort. Time and again, we see that those who exercise tend to suffer fewer medical problems, especially chronic disease. They also have stronger feet and ankles, and are able to recover from injuries more easily. Even those who start walking for exercise later in life see an increase in their quality of life and general health, so it is never too late.
Is there a downside to walking? If you don’t currently exercise, the benefits far outweigh any potential negatives. However, certain conditions, including bunions, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, tarsal tunnel syndrome or heel spurs can limit your ability to exercise, or even worsen as a result of the added strain. If you have foot or ankle pain you’ve been ignoring, call (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Maislos, DPM, FACFASand learn about how you can correct these problems in order to start living a healthier life.
Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:
- pain in the foot or ankle
- difficulty supporting weight on your feet
- foot discomfort during physical activity