The Many Health Benefits of Long Walks

Walking reduces the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular incidents by about 30 percent. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

The next time you have a check-up, don’t be surprised if your doctor hands you a prescription to walk. Yes, this simple activity that you’ve been doing since you were about a year old is now being touted as “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,” in the words of Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of course, you probably know that any physical activity, including walking, is a boon to your overall health. But walking, in particular, comes with a host of benefits. Here’s a list of 10 that may surprise you.

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1. Heart

Based on reports, walking reduces the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular incidents by about 30 percent. Even if you just manage a speed of 2 miles per hour and cover 5 miles altogether, this exercise greatly helps with the health of your heart. People in societies that walk more than sit inside a cubicle have reported longer longevity for both men and women.

2. Lungs

Walking in the midst of trees has a unique therapeutic property. Trees filter out pollutants along with the carbon-dioxide. People suffering from acute respiratory conditions, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, and emphysema can get a boost to their health while taking a stroll outdoors.

3. Bones

Unlike running and other strenuous workouts, walking is gentle and easy on the joints. Walking regularly helps maintain bone mass. This is especially helpful for older folks who risk accident-based injuries. Slowing the development of arthritis, walking can also reduce osteoporosis. Everyday walking helps you stay mobile throughout your life.

4. Muscles

Walking tones the leg and gives it a complete workout. It also helps in activating abdominal muscles and those in the arms if you swing them properly during the walk. Your posture improves as the back is straightened. Remember the proper walking style — rolling your foot from heel to the toe. If you carry a bad posture, then you must purposefully work toward making it right in the initial stages.

5. Fat

Walking for an hour in a brisk manner makes the body burn stored up fat. Consistent exercises also focus on the burning of visceral or internal belly fat. This fat is especially dangerous as it contributes to heart diseases and diabetes. Brisk walking helps cut down fat by burning at least 90 calories per mile. To burn more, try walking uphill or on slight inclines. Based on tests, people who combine dieting with walking have the most benefits, burning off at least 1.5 inches off their waistlines walking one hour per day for 12 weeks.

To burn more fat, try walking uphill or on slight inclines. (Image: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

6. Podcasts

Sometimes it gets boring walking the same routes every day. In this case, bring along technology, and start listening to podcasts. They’re mostly free, and you can listen to them anywhere. Lots of great interviews with subject experts and interesting conversations. They’re far more instructive than songs. If you’re feeling down, listen to some uplifting motivational messages. There are podcasts for almost all interests. Catch up on the news and latest happenings as well. This way, you’ll look forward to the walk every day.

7. Learn

You can learn a thing or two during the long strolls. Podcasts greatly help with this. There are resources for almost all professions out there. If you need to move up in the workplace, go for educational materials that will give you an edge over the competition. Keep on learning. And, with no distractions, this is a good time to do just that. Walk back in the house smarter than you left it.

8. Think

It’s said that people nowadays don’t live; they just exist. That’s just sad. You have your life in front of you, and the will to make free choices. So think about where you are going wrong, and where you need to improve. In your daily mundane life, there may not be ample opportunity to just sit back with your thoughts.

Walking alone in the woods or in open places frees up tension in your body, and your mind is allowed to venture out and inspect other perspectives freely. Many great thinkers walk regularly for this reason. Who knows? Maybe the next great idea is up to your walking trail.

Most of the lifestyle-related diseases can be improved through exercise, especially walking. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)
Most of the lifestyle-related diseases can be improved through exercise, especially walking. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

9. Unwind

All day you sit stuffed within the four enclosures of your home or workplace. There is a lot of worlds out there for you to explore. Following the same routine day-in and day-out will lead to mental and physical lethargy. The human body is not meant to sit as much as we do nowadays. Some studies claim that sitting is even more harmful than smoking.

We have our doubts on that, but still, sitting hunched up behind a computer screen all day long, and then going back home to sit in front of the TV is not advisable. Get outside. Your body deserves it. You deserve it.

10. Life

Meet new people while walking. While walking, smile at the neighbors and the people you come across on your route. Establish relationships. Make the activity more enjoyable with people. No matter what happens in life, it’s the people around you who make it good or bad; who make it worth living. So, open up, say hello, and greet everyone. Some will look down, others will smile back, and a few will wait for you to pass by them every day.

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