“Walking is man’s best medicine.” Hippocrates knew a thing or two when he made this statement—walking is one of the simplest and most beneficial acts we can perform when it comes to our health. In addition to the fact that it has no learning curve, it’s free and it can be done anywhere, here are six significant reasons why you need to walk every day.
1. It strengthens
Regular walking is exactly the type of weight-bearing exercise that your bones and muscles need to stay strong. As we age, both of these tissues like to try and duck out on us, but Walk Every Day will hold them accountable until we’re done with them.
2. It makes your heart happy
You may not consider walking an aerobic activity, but I promise you it is. Walking calls upon muscles throughout your entire body, all of which need extra blood to do their job. As the demand for blood goes up, your heart has to kick things up a notch as well. Unlike most of us, our hearts actually like working harder and become stronger and more efficient for it. As the American Heart Association notes, walking can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes (all of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke) as much as running. Maybe that tortoise was on to something!
3. It relieves joint pain
Joint pain is a daily problem for many of us. While it may be tempting to take it easy in hopes of reducing stress on the joint(s), what you really need to be doing is moving. Our joints rely on surrounding synovial fluid for nutrients and oxygen. The impact on our joints provided by walking forces the exchange of oxygen and nutrients in the synovial fluid, giving your joints what they need. Non-mobile joints are basically starved of the good stuff, increasing stiffness and pain.
4. It boosts your brain function
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of mental decline are very real threats as we age; allow walking to be your secret weapon in your fight to keep mental clarity. It is thought the increased blood flow that accompanies physical activity improves blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which, in turn, improves the development and function of neurons. For example, one study published in Neurology looked at 749 subjects age 65 and over, and found those who walked regularly had a 70-75% lower risk of developing vascular dementia.
5. It improves circulation
The increase in heart rate you experience while walking signals an increase in blood circulation throughout your body. Blood carries nutrients and the oxygen your body relies on to perform every single task (right down to the cellular level). An increased supply of fresh blood flushes out waste by-products and encourages tissue regrowth as well as healing. This can also happen while sitting on the couch, but it does so at a much slower rate. Increased blood circulation will also lower your risk of blood clotting problems like deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
6. It boosts your mood
Have you ever heard of a runner’s high? Well, it’s not just runners who are privy to that little perk. All forms of exercise are known to boost the body’s endorphins—chemicals that reduce pain perception and boost your mood once they’re released by the body following specific types of stimuli. As reported by Harvard Medical School, walking fast for at least 30 minutes per day five days per week or 60 minutes three days per week has a significant influence on mild to moderate depression symptoms.