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Don't Overlook The Benefits of Walking

Couple walking the dogThat’s right, just walking. Not jogging or running or any other more intensive form of exercise.

Any form of physical activity has its benefits, and that includes walking. We were built to move, after all. But it’s important to consider your goals for exercise.

For many people, the most obvious goal is weight loss. They want to shed those unwanted pounds. They often look for the quick fix and the fast solution – harder, longer, faster. Which is all well and good – if you work harder you will likely burn more calories and achieve your goals faster. Provided that is, you can stick with it and you control how many calories you take in.

Do long, intense and sweaty workouts appeal to you? Gyms that were briefly packed by all those new year’s resolutions tend to empty out a bit by this time of year. Why? Because many people start out fast and heavy, only to burn out and lose their motivation to continue within a couple of months.

A better approach may be to start out a little slower and build up to more intense workouts. Walking is a great place to start. All you need are a decent pair of sneakers and a water bottle. Unless you suffer from severe mobility issues, it’s relatively easy to get going.

It’s not just about weight loss

With our society so focused on how people look, it’s easy to overlook the fact that regular exercise delivers a range of benefits that far exceed weight loss alone. In fact, you can enjoy these benefits even if your weight doesn’t change. These benefits include:

  • Improved mood and reduced stress
  • Increased energy and productivity
  • Fewer of those aches and pains that shouldn’t be accepted as “just part of getting older”
  • Improved circulation, flexibility and range of motion
  • Reduced chances of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes

We have written several times before about the value and benefit of a regular routine of exercise that blends weight/strength training with cardiovascular exercise. It is important to exercise and condition your whole body.

But again, any level of effort of which you are capable can benefit your health. Walking is the perfect example of how the effort doesn’t have to be intense to be beneficial.

What walking does for you

Walking will burn calories that can aid in weight loss. The faster you walk and the more you pump your arms, the more calories you will burn. A big advantage over jogging or running is that walking is low-impact and much gentler to your joints.

But again, the benefits extend well beyond the potential for weight loss. Many of us suffer from the health crisis of our times – too much time spent sitting. Hours at work or in front of the TV sitting weakens our core muscles, constricts blood flow and leads to stiffness and even chronic pain.

A 20 or 30-minute walk each day can change all that. To walk upright, your body has to recruit a lot of muscles – not just those in your legs, but the back muscles and the abdominal muscles of your trunk as well.

All that muscle work from walking:

  • Gets the blood flowing to increase the supply of oxygen and nutrients to these muscles.
  • Flushes out the toxins that cause muscle stiffness and pain.
  • Stretches out and increase the flexibility of these muscles and their connective tissues – ligaments and tendons. This extends to the erector muscles and connective tissues of your lower spine. That’s right – walking does improve your spinal health by maintaining the spine’s flexibility and proper alignment.
  • Increases strength. Walking will make all these muscles stronger. Stronger muscles provide better support to your body and reduce your risk of injury from strains and sprains.
  • It can lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • It can improve memory and cognitive function.

Learn more about how to get a better walking posture. Because posture is always important.

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