Take a Walk!

Seven reasons to lace up your shoes and get moving

Family walking through the park

Whether you want to lose weight, run a race, or just feel better, going for a walk is an easy first step toward fitness. You can do it just about anytime, anywhere. As you build stamina, increase the speed and length of your walk. Here are some of the benefits you’ll enjoy.

Help your heart
Walking is a good cardiovascular activity. Doing it at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Walk at a good pace to get your heart pumping and strengthen your heart muscles. To check your speed, count the steps you take in one minute, and divide by 30. Taking 90 steps per minute would be about 3 mph. That’s a brisk clip for most people.

Lower blood pressure
Can’t squeeze in a 30-minute walk today? You can still benefit from moving your feet. Researchers found that taking three 10-minute walks per day helps lower blood pressure. The key is to walk briskly.

Control weight gain
Eating less is the best way to lose weight. But you can lose faster by making walking part of your plan. Moderate or vigorous speed is best for weight loss. You’ll burn 200 to 300 calories per hour. For best results, try to walk fast enough that you can feel your heart rate increasing and your muscles warming up.

Build a strong body
Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, so it strengthens your muscles and bones. It’s good for your joints, too. Add squats and lunges to your walk routine to pump up your leg strength.

Keep blood sugar steady
Moderate exercise like walking helps muscles absorb glucose, and that helps maintain healthy glucose levels. In studies of older adults with prediabetes, three quick walks a day or a walk after meals helped prevent blood sugar spikes.

Improve your mood
Physical activity causes the brain to release chemicals that make us feel better. Being active outdoors has been shown to further increase feelings of well-being. People who exercise outdoors also tend to exercise longer. Let the sights and sounds distract you while walking. Your stress levels might drop.

Get a good night’s sleep
A walk after dinner can result in better sleep, according to research published in Sleep Medicine. Being active in the day helps tire and relax your body. You’ll be more likely to doze off and sleep soundly.

Talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.