Sedentary Death Syndrome has been a major public health issue for at least ten years. It is known for causing multiple chronic diseases and millions of premature deaths each year, and the only known cure is physical activity(1).
That’s why the US government recommends that everyone get regular exercise – including older adults, pregnant women, and people with disabilities.
“Being physically active is one of the most important steps that Americans of all ages can take to improve their health,” write the authors of the Physical Activity Guidelines For Americans, adding that “Regular physical activity reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes,” and that “some physical activity is better than none.”(2)
The fact is, you don’t need to be hitting the gym for hours every day to reap the benefits of a more active lifestyle. Most health benefits of exercise begin to manifest after at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity – like a brisk walk every other day.
In fact, walking is an often underrated form of exercise that offers many health benefits. It’s time to take a look at the advantages that regular walking can have.
1. Walking Is A Great Source Of Stress Relief
“Psychosocial factors, such as chronic mental stress and mood, are recognized as an important predictor of longevity and wellbeing,” write the authors of one review(3). “In particular, depression is independently associated with cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, and is often comorbid with chronic diseases that can worsen their associated health outcomes.”
Fortunately, there’s good news: “Regular exercise is thought to be associated with stress reduction and better mood, which may partially mediate associations between depression, stress, and health outcomes.”
In other words, every time you take a break from your job or from dealing with the kids to get in a brisk walk, you’re reducing your risk for conditions which can cause your premature death – and you’ll feel less stressed as a result.
2. Walking Increases Bone Mass Density
Many people lose bone mass density as they age – especially women, who are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. However, just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean that osteoporosis is inevitable. Regular walking is a load-bearing activity, which helps put the necessary stress on at-risk bones to increase bone density and build muscle mass.
One study concludes that “Healthy postmenopausal women who walk approximately 1 mile each day have higher whole-body bone density than women who walk shorter distances,” adding that “Walking is also effective in slowing the rate of bone loss from the legs.”(4)
3. Walking Reduces Your Risk Of Heart Disease
A sedentary lifestyle can be a major contributor to the development of heart disease. Unnecessary pounds put stress on your heart – but regular physical activity can lower your cholesterol, help control your blood pressure, and release endorphins that help with stress management.
In fact, the authors of one article state, physicians can prescribe regular walking as a means of preventing cardiovascular disease for at-risk individuals.
“Evidence from epidemiological studies suggest that even small improvements in the amount of daily walking is better than no walking, and greater increases confer larger cardiovascular health benefits,” the authors state(5). “Patients may accrue short-term gains such as improved fitness, body composition, blood pressure and lipid profiles.”
Building Up To A Regular Routine
Walking poses a minimal risk of injury, which makes it an ideal form of exercise for individuals who are at higher risk for complications from more stressful forms of exercise. But to reduce your risk even more, it’s important to build up gradually to a regular walking routine, with a minimum goal of 150 minutes per week.
There are even more health benefits to walking than we covered here – including a decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia(6) – but don’t take our word for it; getting out for regular strolls is an easy way to experience the health benefits of moderate exercise for yourself.