Walking: taking steps to better health

Placing one foot in front of the other leads to some seriously impressive mental and physical benefits. 

Walking is a form of exercise that can significantly improve your physical and mental health. Not only can it extend your life and prevent disease, but it can also boost your energy and mood. Walking is also easy, accessible and free!

Exercising starts a biological cascade of events in your body that results in many health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. However, the real value of walking is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time. It spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. The improvement in brain function makes you feel better. Just a 30-minute walk is enough to lift the mood of someone suffering from major depressive disorder. 

Walking increases blood flow around the body so that more blood — containing oxygen and nutrients for fuel — can reach the large muscles in the legs as well as the brain. Walking briskly and regularly can also help protect you from getting a cold, the flu, or other immune-related illnesses. That’s because physical exercise like walking increases the amount of white blood cells circulating in your blood. These cells fight infection and other diseases as part of the body’s immune system.

Walking can also help relieve pain from stiffness in your body by warming up your muscles, making it easier to move. There is also evidence of patients who are hospitalized with chronic musculoskeletal pain in the spine or limbs reporting less pain the more they walked. 

Walking has it all. Simple and natural, it doesn’t require any instruction or skill. It can be a very modest form of exercise or it can demand enough skill and intensity to be an Olympic sport. You can walk alone for solitude or with friends for companionship. You can walk indoors on a treadmill or outside in the city or country, at home or away. You can get all the benefits of moderate exercise with a very low risk of injury. And to boot, walking is inexpensive. All things considered, Charles Dickens got it right: “Walk to be healthy, walk to be happy.”

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