Walk a Little, Live a Lot (Longer)
By Lambeth Hochwald
From Health magazine
What if there was something simple you could do every day that would burn calories, be good for your heart, and help you stay young. You’d do it, right? Well, that’s why researchers and doctors are so gung ho about walking, especially in light of new research that credits it for everything from cutting breast cancer risks to helping you sleep. Walking is not just a weenie activity for the nonathletic, says Michelle Look, MD, national medical consultant to the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk and a physician who specializes in sports medicine in San Diego: “It’s good for just about anybody, and the health benefits are particularly significant for women.” Here, eight reasons to start walking—or just walk a little more often.
1. It's great for the heart
Researchers found that walking briskly for 30 minutes every day lowers your odds of developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors linked to higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Don’t have time for a daily half-hour walk? Try multitasking: Active commuting (incorporating walking and cycling into your sedentary commute) is associated with an 11 percent reduction in heart-disease risk, especially among women.
2. It cuts breast-cancer risks
Walking, even for a few hours a week, significantly reduces breast-cancer risk, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The thinking is that walking helps reduce levels of body fat, a source of estrogen. The research looked at 74,000 postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79. Those at a normal weight lowered their risk by 30 percent; those who were overweight, by 10 to 20 percent. Younger women may also gain similar benefits.
3. It helps you sleep
A brisk walk in the afternoon will help you get a better night’s sleep. Experts say that walking may boost levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, which relaxes you.
4. It cuts down on aches and pains
Walk the “chi” (pronounced chee) way and you could have fewer achy days. It looks like regular walking but, because you consciously relax, improve the alignment of your body, and involve arm movements, puts less stress on the legs while you walk.
5. It makes you happy
Walking can relieve depression, anxiety, and stress. Just one 30-minute walk may make you feel better when you’re down. Head out for 90 minutes five times a week and you’ll get the biggest boost.
6. It keeps you slimmer
Walking for 30 minutes a day can prevent weight gain in most people who are physically inactive. Researchers from Brown University and the University of Pittsburgh showed that women who walked for an hour five days a week and consumed 1,500 calories a day lost and kept off 25 pounds over the course of a year.
7. It staves off senior moments
Several studies in older people suggest that walking—even for as little as 45 minutes a week—helps ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Regular strolls are also linked to mental sharpness in seniors. But regardless of your age, walking is likely to help keep your mind active.
8. It protects your bones
Just 30 minutes of walking three times a week does wonders to prevent and treat thinning bones.