Why Walking is Underrated: Top 5 Health Benefits of Walking
By Sarah Axtell, ND • April 2, 2020
Given the pandemic of COVID-19 and the resultant “safer at home” order, I’ve noticed a lot of people are out walking lately. Walking is an excellent way to manage stress and get some exercise. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to establish a new walking routine since you likely have more time on your hands AND since you are likely feeling more anxious or stressed.
You don’t need to be a runner or a cyclist to experience the benefits of exercise. Walking is the most underrated form of exercise. Here are the top 5 benefits of walking:
- Stress Management. Exercise boosts endorphins, which leads to a better mood, and improves the ability to sleep, which in turns helps with stress management.
- Weight Loss. Walking can actually affect our obesity-promoting genes. In fact, researchers at Harvard found that walking for one hour per day can reduce weight-promoting effect of certain genes by 50%. On the other hand, sedentary activity such as watching tv was found to promote the weight-gaining effect of the same genes.
- Supports the Immune System. The immune system is very responsive to physical exercise. Exercise helps the body adapt to stress hormones, which in turn may protect against illness. Exercise also helps the immune system find and deal with pathogens.
- Reduces Sugar Cravings. A study published in the journal Appetite revealed that a 15-minute brisk walk can cut the urge to snack on chocolate by half.
- Improved Sleep. It is well established that physical exercise can help you fall asleep more quickly and improve sleep quality. Vigorous exercise too close to bedtime can energize some people, but gentle walking in the evening can improve sleep.
When is the best time to walk?
After meals! Walking after eating not only improved digestion (bye-bye bloat!), but it also helps regulate blood sugar levels. As little as a ten minute walk post-meals can improve blood glucose levels. This in turn reduces the risk of diabetes and obesity. When we eat, blood sugar increases and we get a resultant rise in insulin. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. Walking helps reduce the spike in blood sugar and thus less of an insulin response.
Do continue to keep your distance (at least 6 feet) from other people on the sidewalk or trail.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.