Walking is considered an important form of exercise for many reason
Walking provides many of the same mental and physical health benefits as other aerobic exercises – but with less effort and strain on one's body.
Walking is considered an important form of exercise for many reasons, but its primary benefit is that it's good for the heart. Its cardiovascular advantages include better circulation, which lowers blood pressure and one's heart rate, and improved cardiac output – the heart's ability to pump blood throughout the body.
Two recent studies published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), also show that walking between 2,000 to 10,000 steps each day reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer, and decreases the likelihood of a premature death by at least 10%.
The added beauty of such benefits is that they aren't hard to come by. "Walking is a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints, making it a great option for people with knee, ankle, or hip problems," says Austin "Ozzie" Gontang, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and the director of the San Diego Marathon Clinic. Gontang adds that because walking requires no special equipment, gym membership or training, it's "accessible to all and easy to incorporate into your daily routine."
Beyond getting one's heart rate up and the cardiovascular benefits that come from walking, the practice has also been shown to boost one's metabolism, improve cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of stroke, strengthen bones and increase one's energy levels.
"Because walking helps strengthen muscles in your lower body, it can also improve knee and hip arthritis pain," says Michael Fredericson, MD, director of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation division of Stanford University.
The JAMA research also shows that walking about 10,000 steps a day reduces the risk of dementia by a staggering 50%. "Walking can also reduce the risk of other chronic diseases such as diabetes," adds Gontang.
On top of such physical benefits, "walking has also been shown to improve cognition, sleep and mental health including mood and self-esteem," says Shelby Johnson, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester.