If you’re reading this, you may already be at your desk. And, like the majority of the population, you probably arrived there by car or public transportation. But it’s not too late! April 4 is National Walk to Work Day, which serves as a great time to pound the pavement on your way back home, or if that isn’t possible, go walking during your lunch break.
Walking for health is not a new idea. Thomas Jefferson wrote “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.” Years ago, work entailed manual labor jobs that kept you on your feet all day or involved physical activity. If the most active part of your job is moving a mouse for your computer then you need to pay attention. The amount of daily physical activity done by the average adult has changed in the last 50 years. With labor saving devices at home and work in the cube farm, few of us get the exercise we truly need to stay healthy.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last few years (in that case you probably walk enough already) you know walking is good for your heart and health in general. But there are other health benefits of walking, too, and here are just some of them:
1. It can help prevent obesity The best way, the only way to lose weight and keep it off is to exercise more and eat less. Walking is a great way to knock those pounds off your hips and lighten the load on your heart.
2. It reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol and increases ‘good cholesterol For the most part, our diets are horrible: too much red meat, too much fried food and sugar, way too much fast food. Bad cholesterol, the build-up of plaque in the blood vessels, will lead to heart disease. A balanced diet along with exercise will elevate the good cholesterol we all need and help lower bad cholesterol levels.
Read Related: Lace Up Your Shoes for AHA’s National Walking Day!
3. It lowers body fat The average American has a body mass index or BMI of 26 percent, well over the ideal range of 18.5 – 24.9 percent, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) Those with a BMI over 30 percent (and one out of 50 Americans fit that category) are considered morbidly obese. Morbid, as in dead. Walking alone won’t reduce your BMI but, walking combined with healthy eating will go a long way to lowering that number.
4. It reduces fatigue Sounds wrong I know. If you’re tired, why would walking pep you up? Well, walking elevates the heart rate, gets the blood to pumping harder and releases endorphins, which make you feel less tired.
5. It’s a mood elevator This one is easy. Push yourself away from the desk and walk to lunch. You’ll leave behind stress and get some fresh air. You’ll have to face the work, of course, but for a moment you can walk away from your crummy mood and clear your head.
6. It reduces the risk of osteoporosis Strong bones are healthy bones, and walking improves bone strength. Research shows that walking a few times a week at even a modest pace will keep those bones and joints healthy.
7. It reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer A UK report shows that exercising as little as 30 minutes 3 times a week can reduce the risk of breast cancer from 20 – 40 percent. So being active may lower your risk by between a fifth and just over a third. Similarly, exercise could reduce colon cancer risk by as much as 25 percent. And maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as 50 percent.
8. It reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes Health.com reports on recent studies showing the relationship between exercise and type 2 diabetes. You may consider exercise a nuisance, a chore, or simply a bore. But if you have risk factors for type 2 diabetes, you need to look at physical activity in a whole new light. Now it’s a tool. Just like taking a drug or altering your diet, exercise can lower blood sugar on its own, even if you don’t lose weight. If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes you need to lace up those sneakers and start moving.
9. It relieves stress Ask yourself this: would you rather be sitting in traffic or in your cubicle, or outside walking? Which activity is less stressful? Bet you didn’t have to think long. Removing yourself from stress triggers and getting in some exercise is a win-win for sure.
10. It improves sleep Research done at the Mayo Clinic demonstrates it’s easier to sleep after exercise. Regular physical activity, like walking, can promote better sleep, help you fall asleep faster and lead to a deeper sleep. Don’t exercise right before bedtime though, as you might be too energized to fall asleep.