Step by Step: Understanding Why Walking Is Good For Your Health

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Ever wondered why walking is good for your health? Let’s dive into the science and discover the amazing benefits of taking those daily steps!

Research indicates that walking offers numerous health benefits, with the more one walks, the greater the advantages.

The recommended weekly exercise for adults, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

Dr. Jay Lee, an internal medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente, emphasizes the importance of daily activity and exercise, suggesting at least 30 to 40 continuous minutes for overall physical and mental well-being.

Walking, in particular, stands out as an accessible means to achieve these exercise goals. It requires no special equipment, can be done indoors or outdoors, and can be undertaken solo or with others.

Moreover, adjusting the intensity is as simple as changing one’s pace or location. Walking easily integrates into daily routines, such as running errands or participating in remote work meetings.

While the common notion is to strive for 10,000 steps daily, experts suggest that aiming for 7,000 to 8,000 steps can meet WHO’s physical activity guidelines. Some studies even indicate that benefits emerge with as few as 4,000 steps or 10 minutes of walking.

Why walking is good for your health: Scientific research reveals several positive impacts of walking on health:

  1. Reduced Dementia Risk: A study in JAMA Neurology found that taking 9,800 steps may optimally lower dementia risk, with 3,800 steps still reducing the risk by 25%.
  2. Longevity: Research in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals that older women taking around 4,400 steps per day had a 41% lower mortality risk. Other studies suggest a 50% to 70% lower mortality risk with 7,000 daily steps.
  3. Heart Disease and Cancer Prevention: Walking up to 10,000 steps daily may reduce cardiovascular disease and cancer risk, according to JAMA Internal Medicine.
  4. Blood Pressure: Walking 300 minutes weekly can reduce high blood pressure, as per a study in PeerJ.
  5. Improved Sleep: An extra 2,000 steps daily can enhance sleep duration and quality, as shown in the Sleep Health Journal.
  6. Mental Health: Walking can alleviate anxiety, depression, stress, and negative emotions, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
  7. Bone Health: Brisk walking for at least 30 minutes, three days a week, can enhance bone density and prevent osteoporosis (PLoS One).
  8. Type 2 Diabetes Risk: The risk of developing type 2 diabetes decreases with every additional 2,000 steps, states the American Diabetes Association.

There’s no universal step count to aim for, as walking’s benefits are cumulative. The more one walks, the more advantages are experienced. Dr. Marie Kanagie-McAleese advises brisk and consistent walking, varying terrains, and considering duration and frequency for optimized benefits.

To make the most of walking, Dr. Jay Lee recommends walking for at least 30 to 40 minutes without interruption, with brisk walking to elevate heart and breathing rates. Shorter daily walks can be chosen over longer, more intense walks if needed, as regularity is paramount.

For those looking to increase their step count, assessing current activity levels and setting gradual goals is advised. Simple strategies include taking extra laps, parking farther away, or using stairs instead of elevators.

Over time, increasing the step goal by 250 to 500 steps per week and adding more days of walking can help achieve the recommended 4,000 to 7,000 steps and 20 to 30 minutes daily.

So, the message is clear: “More is better” when it comes to walking, but it’s crucial to enjoy it and prioritize safety.


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