Benefits of Walking

Many people start walk to lose weight, stay in shape, tone their legs or improve body composition. These are great potential benefits from walking, but not the only benefits and many are not physically seen. One of the greatest benefits of being a runner is that it strongly contributes to the overall health of a person not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.

Sustained walking sessions for a minimum period of thirty to sixty minutes a day, five days a week, with the correct walking posture, reduce health risks and have various overall health benefits, such as reducing the chances of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, anxiety and depression. Life expectancy is also increased even for individuals suffering from obesity or high blood pressure. Walking also increases bone health, especially strengthening the hipbone, and lowering the more harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and raises the more useful good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.


The Benefits of Regular Exercise and Activity

By Toni Branner (Director of TheGoSite Board Of Specialists)
Site Manager for TheGoSite Wellness and Fitness Sites
Exercise Physiologist, Wellness Coach, Author, and Speaker

Hundreds of scientific and practical experiments have been carried out in an attempt to pinpoint the benefits of regular exercise. Some of the information is conflicting but overall the data suggests that being fit can have a positive impact on many aspects of your life. Most important is to act now. Just because you were active earlier in your life does not mean you are immune from the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. The evidence is too great. You can put off cleaning out your closet or weeding the flowers but you cannot afford to procrastinate with regard to fitness any longer. It is never too late to start.

The list below highlights some of the well researched benefits of exercise. Most of the benefits are related to aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretching, however, people who are generally active in daily living will experience some of the same results. Recent studies have demonstrated that moderate activity is almost as beneficial as strenuous, high-intensity exercise in preventing heart disease and increasing longevity. You don’t have to run marathons to receive the benefits.

It is important to engage in activities which are fun and enjoyable. Modest amounts of physical activity, such as climbing stairs , mowing the grass, and walking the golf course (or your dog) will have a positive impact on health.

Physiological Benefits of Regular Aerobic Exercise

Decreased Risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) – CHD is caused by a lack of blood supply to the heart muscle, resulting from a degenerative disorder called atherosclerosis. Buildup of plaque and fat on the lining of arteries begins in early childhood. Active kids become active adults and physical activity reduces the risk of blockage. Regular exercisers add quality and years to their life. If a heart attack does occur, regular exercisers have less chance of a fatal or recurring event.

Reduced Hypertension – Hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure. It is especially prevalent among African-Americans. Aerobic and muscular exercise has been found to decrease elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Improved Blood Lipids and Lipoproteins – Exercise has been shown to effectively reduce triglycerides, total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol all of which are related to a higher incidence of coronary artery disease (blockage of arteries which can lead to chest pain and/or heart attack). HDL cholesterol, a beneficial type of cholesterol which helps clear the arteries, is usually increased. Therefore, regular aerobic exercise combined with a low-fat/high-fiber diet can reduce the buildup of the plaque which causes blockage in arteries.

Enhanced Cardiac Function – Exercise makes the cardiorespiratory system stronger and more efficient. Specific changes include:

  • Lower resting heart rate (this means your heart has to beat fewer times per minute to supply your body with adequate oxygen and nutrients).
  • Increased stroke volume(the amount of blood pumped by the heart with each beat is increased).
  • Higher oxygen uptake (Since your heart can pump more blood per beat, your body’s capacity to consume oxygen during exercise is enhanced. The greater volume of blood, and therefore oxygen, delivered to the muscle cells results in increased stamina).
  • Increased metabolism of fat and carbohydrate (trained muscle cells are more efficient at utilizing fat due to increased blood flow and the greater activity of fat-metabolizing enzymes. The muscle cells can also store more glycogen which makes more carbohydrate available for use).

Enhanced Bone Health – Weight-bearing exercise such as recreational jogging, aerobic dancing, brisk walking, and cycling for the lower skeleton and weight training for the upper body can increase or maintain overall bone mass. Inactivity, on the other hand, contributes to calcium loss from the bones and osteoporosis. Regular weight-bearing activity begun at an early age combined with proper nutrition (alkaline diet) can have a positive effect on lifelong bone health.

Lower Smoking Risk – Exercisers are less likely to smoke than sedentary people. For those who do smoke, physical activity lowers the risk of coronary artery disease.

Healthier Weight and Body Fat – Since obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health problems, reducing your risk could save your life. Lean body mass (muscle) is more metabolically active that fat which means you will burn more calories at rest.

Better Control of Blood Glucose – Diabetics can benefit from regular physical activity combined with a proper diet and appropriate medications.

Increased Muscular Strength and Flexibility – As we grow older strength and flexibility become a deciding factor in our ability to function in normal and necessary activities. Exercise has been shown to delay and possibly prevent some of the degenerative problems associated with aging. Muscular balance can prevent lower back injuries, knee problems, and joint problems.

Growth of New Neurons in the Brain – Studies show that after aerobic exercise your brain actually grows new neurons reducing your risk of dementia.
Other Possible Physical Benefits Shown Through Research

  • Improves the function of your immune system.
  • Improves posture.
  • Helps relieve the pain of tension headaches.
  • Helps you to incur fewer medical and health-care expenses.
  • Reduces your risk for developing colon, breast, and prostate cancer.
  • Improves your heat tolerance.
  • Helps you sleep better.
  • Helps to relieve or prevent constipation.
  • Helps you adapt to cold environments.
  • Reduces your risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Reduced risk of endometriosis.
  • More energy to do the things you want to do!

Psychological Benefits of Regular Exercise

  • Reduces depression
  • Improves confidence and self-esteem
  • Promotes a sense of well-being and positive mood
  • Increased alertness and clearer thinking
  • Improves ability to handle stress
  • Decreased tension
  • Improves attitude toward work and reduces miss workdays due to illness.
  • Helps you to combat substance abuse
  • Helps reduce pre-menstrual tension
  • Improves overall quality of life