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National Walking day: Why Walking Can Help You Take Control of Your Health

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In the U.S, 1 in 4 adults are immobile for more than 8 hours every day. The negative consequences of sedentary life affects the physical and mental well-being. However, walking is one of the simplest yet most effective forms of exercise. It’s a powerful tool for taking charge of your overall health. The American Heart Association came up with the National Walking Day to inspire people to move more. 

The National Walking Day teaches the possible health progress you can achieve should you take small steps. For sure, walking is one of the simplest ways to get and stay active.

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Let’s explore four physical and mental health reasons why walking can help you take control of your health. 

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Managing Your Weight

Boost Fat Loss by Walking. Video Credit: Grown and Healthy

Weight loss is an agenda for many people. Walking might not seem as intense as some exercises, but even moderate-paced walking contributes to weight management. And the best part? It’s easy to integrate in your everyday schedule.

When you walk, you manage your weight in four ways:

Building your muscles

We all know that walking isn’t a muscle building exercise. However, it helps you build and maintain lean muscle mass. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, even when at rest. Therefore, the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism and the more calories you burn.

Burning Calories

Walking expends energy and burns calories. The burned calories depend on factors like your distance, pace,and weight. Don’t underestimate the calories that would be burned by even walking casually for 30 minutes. Consistent calorie expenditure through walking creates a calorie deficit, which means you’re burning more than you’re consuming, promoting weight loss.

Boosts Metabolism

Group of people walking. Photo by Henry Xu on Unsplash

After walking, your body continues to burn calories at a slightly increased rate. This Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption, (EPOC) can contribute to weight management.

Curb Appetite

Exercising, including walking, regulates hormones that influence hunger. Regular walks will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Therefore, reducing cravings and helping you manage calorie intake.

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Cardiovascular Health

Walking for Heart Health. Video Credit: Yale New Haven Health

One of the primary reasons for celebrating the National Walking Day is to teach about cardiovascular health.  Walking leaves your heart and blood vessels healthy and able to do their pumping efficiently. 

Walking stimulates your cardiovascular health in these four ways.

Improves your Blood Flow

Through walking, your blood circulates more. Consequently, fresh oxygen and nutrients move throughout your body and waste products like carbon dioxide are removed efficiently. 

Strengthens Your Heart Muscle

Regular walks act like a workout for your heart. As you walk, your heart rate increases, forcing it to pump more blood throughout your body. Over time, this strengthens the heart muscle, making it more efficient at delivering blood and oxygen to your organs.

Maintains Healthy Cholesterol Levels

A heart rate monitor. Image by Anna Shvets on Pexels

Walking helps increase High-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol, which helps remove low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, from your arteries. This reduces the buildup of plaque in your arteries, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Lowers Your Blood Pressure

Physical activity helps your blood vessels relax and dilate, thus, reducing the pressure on your artery walls. Regular walking significantly helps lower the blood pressure for people with hypertension.

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Mental Wellness

Mental Health Benefits of Getting Outside. Video Credit: UNC Health

Besides physical well being, National Walking Day emphasizes mental well being. You don’t need to go for long walks to reap the mental benefits. Even short, brisk walks can significantly improve your mental health. Walking improves your mental health in four ways:

Stress Reduction

Walking has a calming effect. It can distract you from worries and anxieties, allowing your mind to unwind and de-stress.  Being outdoors in nature can further enhance this effect.

Boosts Your Mood

Walking is a natural antidepressant. During walks, your body releases endorphins, chemicals that act like painkillers and mood elevators. These endorphins combat stress and anxiety, leaving you feeling more positive and energetic.

Improves the Cognitive Skills

The words mental health matters. By Marcel Straub on Unsplash

Studies suggest that walking improves cognitive skills. This includes your memory, focus, and creativity. The increased blood flow to the brain during walks energizes you and activates your mental power.

Social Connection

Social interaction is key for mental health, and walking is a great way to connect with others. Through connecting, you share experiences and offer mutual support.

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Bone and Joint Health

The Role of Walking. Video Credit: Holistic Health Strategies

Walking is a gentle, low-impact yet effective exercise for promoting joint and bone health. When you walk, your bones and joints support your body weight against gravity. Thus, your body maintains balance and minimizes the risk of falling. Walkingcan benefit your bones and joints in three ways. 

Strong Bones

According to Wolff’s Law principle, Walking provides the necessary stress to stimulate bone growth. When you walk you put a gentle stress on your bones, particularly in your legs, hips, and spine. This stress stimulates bone growth and helps maintain bone mineral density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and increases fracture risk.

Joints Flexibility

Doctors examining an x-ray image on a laptop. Photo by Antoni Shkraba on Pexels

Your joints move through their whole range of motion while you walk.. Consequently, the joints lubricate, improving flexibility, and reducing stiffness. When your joints are mobile, they help prevent or reduce pain and discomfort associated with conditions like arthritis.

Having Stronger Cartilage

Cartilage is the tough and flexible tissue that cushions your joints. Walking helps circulate synovial fluid, a lubricant within your joints, which nourishes the cartilage and keeps it healthy.

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Even short walks can make a difference. The National Walking Day is celebrated to remind you, movement is key. Start small and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your walks as you become more comfortable. Remember, consistency is key! By incorporating walking into your routine, you’re taking a step towards a happier, healthier mind.

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