Getting the best possible medical care doesn't always involve sophisticated technology or the latest medications. Sometimes a short walk makes all the difference.
“About 80% of chronic medical conditions are lifestyle-related: smoking, poor eating, and being inactive,” Kettering Health Network Cardiologist Harvey Hahn, MD, says. “Walking just 15 minutes a day has been shown to reduce your risk of developing health problems.” Check out these five benefits walking can have on your life.
1. Prevent heart disease
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of all Americans, and it doesn’t discriminate based on gender, age or race. But it also can be 80% preventable by implementing healthy lifestyle changes -- one of these is incorporating physical activity.
Walking as little as 30 minutes a day, five days a week can help ward off heart problems and stroke.
The American Heart Association recommends walking briskly as a way not only to ward off heart disease, but also to lower risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.
2. Live Longer
Hahn said that the most recent health data reveals that even ten minutes of walking provides a mortality benefit. In other words, walking can help add years to your life.
3. Improve quality of life
Whether you walk in three 10-minute treks or one half-hour burst, you'll burn calories, improve your mood, and add to your energy.
“We also know that walking improves mood, aids sleep, increases cardo respiratory fitness and decreases dementia,” said Hahn.
The heart is a muscle that contracts and pumps blood with each heartbeat. During exercise the heart becomes more efficient and delivers more oxygen and nutrients to other organs.
4. Strong muscles and bones
Walking also provides a great workout for many of the muscles in your hips, legs, and feet. Once in shape, these muscles do a better job of pumping blood back to your heart, improving your circulation and endurance.
Plus, the weight-bearing nature of walking helps keep bones strong, which can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Because walking is less intense than other types of exercises, it's gentler on your joints, so you get the gains of more vigorous exercise without the pains.
5. Ease and Accessibility
According to Hahn, who is also the founder of the new “Health Strides” walking program, walking is the “easiest, cheapest and one of the most effective forms of exercise you can do, both inside and outside.”
With that in mind, last fall Hahn founded Health Strides, a program that encourages anyone of any age to join a doctor for a 45-60-minute walk at various locations.
“We are meeting at a nice location, like a park,” Hahn said. “We have a different doc there on each walk, and folks can ask general medical questions. It’s great to be outside and social, and it’s another way to motivate you to exercise. Being social helps keep the brain active too.”
The largest Health Strides walk to date took place on the grounds of St. Leonard Franciscan community in Centerville in November. “We had about 25 people attend,” Hahn said. “We will be starting this program up again once the weather gets warmer in the spring.”
Want to know your risk of developing heart disease? Visit Kettering Health Network’s “Are you at risk?” quiz to assess your level of heart disease risk.