From binge-watching at home to being glued to our office chairs at work, researchers estimate we now spend more than half our waking hours sitting or being sedentary. Unfortunately, all that downtime may contribute to obesity and even shortened life spans. Moreover, prolonged sitting might be a health risk even if you regularly exercise.
Simplify your health goals in the new year by adding walking to your daily to-do list. During the cold winter months, you can window shop around the mall, stroll through museums or walk laps on an indoor track at the gym. If you have sore joints or arthritis, walking can be a great low-impact way to get moving.
Here are just a few benefits of walking:
Walking improves circulation. It also wards off heart disease, raises the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of stroke, and strengthens the heart.
Walking lightens the mood. Studies have shown that the more steps people take during the day, the better their moods are. That’s because walking releases natural pain-killing endorphins throughout the body.
Walking can lead to weight loss. A brisk 30-minute walk burns about 200 calories, depending on your weight. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropping.
Walking strengthens muscles and bones. It tones your leg and abdominal muscles. Over time, walking can increase your range of motion and even help improve your bone density.
Walking supports your joints. Most joint cartilage has no direct blood supply, but it gets nutrition from joint fluid that circulates as we move. The impact of movement or compression, such as walking, “squishes” the cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area.
Walking improves cognitive health. A study from the University of Virginia Health System found that men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who walked less.
Be sure to watch where you’re walking. Distracted walking can put you at risk of falling down stairs, stumbling into the street, or colliding with a car. The next time you’re on a stroll:
• Keep your focus on the people and potential obstacles in front of and around you.
• Turn down the music enough to hear the traffic and other sounds around you.
• Don’t jaywalk. Cross streets carefully, preferably at a light.
• Be sure to look up, especially near curbs, intersections, stairs, and escalators.
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