Health Benefits of Walking

by Roba Whiteley, Executive Director, Together Rx Access

Walking has numerous health benefits that go beyond helping you stay fit. A number of studies have uncovered that
in addition to being good for your heart, walking can improve brain health and lead to a longer, healthier life.
These are just a few good reasons why you should lace up those sneakers and go out for a walk.

  • Boost your brain power. According to a study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, walking at least six miles a week may prevent brain shrinkage and help improve your memory. The study followed 299 people who reported how many blocks they walked for one week. The researchers took brain scans to determine the amount of gray matter in the participants’ brains. The study found those who walked longer distances, roughly six to nine miles a week, had greater gray matter volume in their brains than people who didn’t walk as much. An increase in the brain’s gray matter volume is associated with better memory.
  • Walk faster, live longer. Results from a recent study suggest that a faster stride may put you on the path to a longer, healthier life. An analysis of nearly 35,000 people published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people aged 65 and older who walked fast were more likely to live longer than their slower moving counterparts. This shows that walking speed can be an important indicator for overall health.
  • Reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes. A study from Duke University Medical Center showed that walking just 30 minutes a day, six days per week, can lower the risk of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
  • Manage your cholesterol levels. Walking can raise «good» HDL cholesterol and lower «bad» LDL cholesterol levels and triglycerides. The American Heart Association states that walking is the single most effective type of exercise to achieve heart health.
  • Lower your blood pressure. Walking helps your heart pump stronger and slower with less effort. When your heart works less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.
  • Lower risk for stroke in women. A large, long-term study reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association found that women who walked two or more hours a week or who usually walked at a brisk pace (three miles per hour or faster) had a significantly lower risk of stroke than women who didn’t walk.
  • Improve your mood and mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical evidence shows that aerobic exercise such as walking for at least three to five times a week for 30 to 60 minutes can provide mental health benefits such as sharpened learning, thinking, and judgment skills. It can also reduce your risk of depression and may help you sleep better.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasons to walk. The list could go on and on, but most importantly, don’t wait any longer. Hit the road or treadmill and go that extra mile on the road to better health.