Research has shown that sitting for long periods of time can cause a number of health concerns that include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels. In the long-term, those who sit for longer periods of time without exercise are also at a greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease or cancer.
One simple way to combat all of these health concerns - without much disruption to your daily schedule - is to incorporate walking. Here are a few ways walking everyday can benefit your overall health.
From sitting at our desks, to sitting during our commute, and to sitting at the television in the evening to unwind…we sit a lot. The amount of sitting that we do can weaken our joints and cause aches and pains in our backs, hips, and legs.
Walking, even the most leisurely kind, can counteract these effects by increasing blood flow and maintaining muscle tone.
Walking has also had a profound effect on joint pain specifically. A study by Harvard Medical showed that walking an extra five to six miles a week can prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. This is because walking helps lubricate and protect the joints by strengthening the muscles around them. For those with arthritis, walking can reduce arthritic pain and slow further development of osteoarthritis.
With just 20 minutes of walking a day, men and women reported 43% fewer sick days, shorter durations of sickness, and milder symptoms than their peers who exercised once a week or less (see the study, here).
This is because walking reduces stress and inflammation - which make it more difficult for your body to fight antigens, while also increasing your blood flow and strengthening your antibodies.
When you increase your blood circulation, the white blood cells of your immune system travel around your body more quickly and can recognize and fight antigens faster - which leads to less illness overall, and quicker recovery.
Walking can boost your energy levels and improve your mood in both the short term and the long term. In a study from the University of Georgia, going for a walk had a more effective energy boost than drinking a coffee or can of soda. Along with increasing your blood flow, walking also immediately boosts dopamine and norepinephrine to help boost your mood and energy levels.
In addition to the immediate effects of lower stress hormone levels and endorphins, daily walking for an extended period of time can help your overall mental health. Multiple studies show its role in reducing anxiety, depression, and negative moods.
It’s common to crave sugary treats, or carbs, or unnecessary snacks when stressed. For those who are prone to stress-eating, taking a 15 minute walk can cut down the consumption of these treats, as one study shows.
We often reach for these treats to help manage the stress of our jobs, including boredom - which can become an unconscious habit that leads to weight gain and possible other effects like diabetes, high cholesterol, or cardiovascular disease over time.
By taking a short walk each day (15 minutes), participants of the study were able to cut down their daily treats by half.
Fortunately, all these health benefits can be achieved with a minimal time commitment. In fact, walking is an easy activity to incorporate into things that you already do each day, so that you can multitask rather than add another thing to your daily list.
Consider adding walking to your daily routine by going for walking meetings, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, getting a work surface for your treadmill, or going for walks while on the phone or at your child’s soccer practice.
In just fifteen minutes a day, you can be increasing your physical and mental health for the long run. Happy walking!