Updated on April 20, 2016.
by Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie
From curbing cravings to slowing cancer, walking is the name of the game. It’s easy and takes virtually no special equipment. To help you muster the motivation to lace up those kicks and hit the road, here are 7 ways walking keeps you head-to-toe healthy and happy.
It helps curb cravings. A brisk, 15-minute walk may help you say no to sugary snacks, recent research suggests. When participants abstained from treats for 3 days, then either took a walk or sat quietly before performing tempting activities such as opening the treats, they reported lower cravings following the walk.
It gives harmful fats the boot. Walking helps lower triglycerides, a type of blood fat linked with heart disease risk — even more so than running. As shown in a 2007 Duke University study, walkers who logged 50 minutes, 4 times a week lowered their triglyceride levels by more than 20% — twice as much as joggers in the same study.
It improves your insulin sensitivity. Walking can help keep your blood glucose balanced by improving your sensitivity to insulin. (Insulin is the hormone that helps move glucose from your blood to inside your cells, where it is used for energy.) This holds true whether you have diabetes or not, making walking a great tool for managing diabetes, if you have it, as well as helping prevent it, if you are at risk. In fact, walking has been shown to be equal to running when it comes to reducing your diabetes risk.
It keeps joints healthy. As little as 10 minutes a day may improve circulation and help to keep joints lubricated.
It can lift your mood. The connection between exercise and mental well-being isn’t clear, but moving your body — whether through everyday physical activity like a brisk walk, or a formal workout — has been shown to improve your mood and significantly ease anxiety and depression symptoms.
It staves off dementia. Walking may be a natural memory booster. According to a study published in the journal Neurology in 2008, exercisers ages 65 and older who briskly walked just over 5 miles a week were 27% less likely to develop dementia than their couch-potato peers. In a 2010 study led by a researcher from the University of Pittsburgh, walking actually increased the size of the hippocampus — the part of the brain responsible for memory formation.
It slows down cancer. Regular exercise — including walking — has long been shown to decrease your risk of many diseases, among them breast and colon cancer. Walking may also be a good weapon after you’ve been diagnosed, too. According to a 2011 study in the journal Cancer Research, among men with prostate cancer, those who walked for at least 3 hours a week had a 57% lower rate of progression.
Natalie is a health and fitness writer, runner, and ACE-certified personal trainer.
Published on August 23, 2011.