One of the keys to enjoy a healthy life is to be physically active. Engaging in regular exercise like walking will help you have more energy, build self-confidence, feel happier and of course improve your health in so many ways. Integrating physical activity into your daily routine can generate multiple health benefits and help you fight off chronic illness.
According to research, people who are more active and exercise on a constant basis enjoy a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or obesity. At the same time, researchers have concluded that physical activity can be an effective treatment for chronic illness.
If you’re set on exercising more to prevent chronic disease, walking can become your closest ally. This form of workout is low-impact, doesn’t require special abilities or equipment, can be done anywhere and can have a truly positive impact on your overall health. Here’s how walking can help you prevent and treat various chronic illnesses:
Walking for Heart Disease Prevention
According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular diseases represent the main cause of death world wide. The numbers are grim: 17.9 million people day annually from heart-related illnesses.
Walking can help you decrease the risk of stroke and keep your heart healthy. Done regularly, this type of aerobic exercise can make your heart muscles stronger, lower blood pressure and reduce your bad cholesterol levels. Moreover, findings of the University of Otago in New Zealand suggest that brisk walking could prevent the build of plaque and hence the appearance of clogged arteries.
A different study emphasized the direct link between walking and heart health. Scientists concluded that walking can play an important role in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease for both men and women. The same study showed that using a fitness gadget or a pedometer app to track your activity can lead to an increase in your walking activity.
Walking for Obesity Prevention
The statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are scary: more than 90 million adults and almost 14 million children and teenagers are obese in the United States. Luckily, there are ways to combat obesity. In addition to eating healthier, reducing stress and getting the right amount of rest at night, it’s also essential to be more physically active.
Increasing your physical activity levels can help you lose and maintain your weight. There’s no need to resort to high-intensity workouts to drop that unwanted body fat. You can lose weight by doing a simple exercise like walking. A 200-pound (90 kg) adult, walking at a speed of 4 mph (6.4 km/h) speed, will burn 204 calories in just 30 minutes.
Of course, if you choose to lose weight through walking, it’s mandatory to engage in this activity on a regular basis. The CDC recommends 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity for adults and 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for children and teenagers.
Walking for Cancer Prevention
Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, after heart disease. If you’re worried, it’s good to know there are things you can do to decrease the chances of developing cancer. Eating right, avoiding tobacco, drinking moderately, getting regular medical screenings and, truly important, being physically active on a daily basis. Constant exercise can aid you prevent cancer. And this is not speculation, it’s evidence-based.
Going for a 20-minute brisk walk each day can reduce the risk of various types of cancer, including breast, liver, kidney or colon cancer. After a 10-year study, examining the exercise habits of almost 800.000 people, scientists from the American Cancer Society found that 20 minutes of moderate physical activity can lead to lower odds of being diagnosed with certain forms of cancer.
A 2016 meta-analysis of multiple other studies reached the conclusion that adults with a high level of physical activity have a 19% lower risk of developing stomach cancer than those who are less active.
Walking for Diabetes Prevention
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise to prevent diabetes, and also to effectively keep it under control. Going for a stroll each day can help you not only bring down your blood glucose level, but also improve your insulin sensitivity.
The positive effects of walking on diabetes have been scientifically proven. In a 2015 study, participants were invited to perform various physical activities, including walking, housework or gardening. Walking turned out to be the most beneficial activity. According to Japanese researchers, walking for 30 minutes on a daily basis lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by almost 50%.
Other findings suggest that walking can prevent diabetes in a more efficient way in comparison to running. Researchers from Duke University had prediabetes participants go for a brisk walk or jog 13.8 miles (22.2 km) a week for 6 months. The results? Those who walked briskly had a significantly higher improvement in their glucose tolerance in comparison to those who jogged.
Walking for Joint Health Protection
If you are suffering from joint pain, regular aerobic exercise can be of aid. Walking is a recommended exercise in this case because it’s low impact and puts less pressure on weight-bearing joints such as the ankles, knees, hips or feet. At the same time, going for a walk can keep your cartilage healthy, relieve stiffness and arthritis pain and improve flexibility.
For patients suffering from arthritis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity like walking, strength workouts such as lifting weights, flexibility exercises like stretching and yoga, as well as balance workouts such as walking backwards.
Tip: Keep Track of your Walks
If you want to make the most of your walks, it’s advisable to start keeping track of your activity. This will allow you to know precisely how much you’re walking and see if you’re meeting the guidelines, to visualize the progress made over time and to find the motivation to stay on track and reach higher goals.
You can easily track your physical activity with the aid of your smartphone. All you need to do is download a pedometer app like our own ActivityTracker and you’re all set. The app will automatically record your walking activity and display a series of relevant fitness metrics, such as your step count, calorie burn, the distance covered or the active time. To motivate yourself to walk more, you’ll be able to set your own goals and always stay updated with the progress made.