5 Ways Walking Is Good for You

Turns out putting one foot in front of the other is pretty great for your health.

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1. Walking improves cardiovascular health.

Medical researchers analyzed more than 48,000 adults — 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers — and concluded that both walking briskly and vigorous running resulted in similar reductions in risks for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and possibly coronary heart disease. These findings, which were published in a 2013 edition of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, indicated that the exercisers' activities were assessed based on distance rather than time.

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Also, a 10-year study released by Tufts University in 2015 found that older adults (the average starting age of the 4,207 men and women who participated in this research was 73) who made an effort to walk longer and faster were less likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

2. Walking increases circulation.

According to research published in a 2015 edition of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Experimental Physiology, taking a 10-minute walk after an extended period of sitting can ward off vascular dysfunction.

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"When you have decreased blood flow, the friction of the flowing blood on the artery wall, called shear stress, is also reduced," said lead study author Jaume Padilla, PhD, an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, in a press release. "Moderate levels of shear stress are good for arterial health, whereas low levels of shear stress appear to be detrimental and reduce the ability of the artery to dilate. Dilation is a sign of vascular health. The more the artery can dilate and respond to stimuli, the healthier it is."

According to Shavise Glascoe, exercise physiologist at the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore, a small change really does make a difference.

"It's pretty amazing what 10 minutes of anything can really do," Glascoe says. "Keep in mind that the average American sits for about 15 hours a day. It's a little horrifying!"

3. Walking lowers the risk of life-threatening diseases.

In 2015, study authors from the University of East Anglia stated that adults who regularly walked in groups experienced a multitude of life-saving benefits, including lower blood pressure, resting heart rate, total cholesterol, Body Mass Index (BMI), as well as lower rates of depression.

Separate research published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that adding two minutes of walking each day may offset the hazards of sitting too long — and ultimately add years to your life. In fact, two extra minutes of a light activity (which included walking, as well as light gardening and cleaning) each hour was associated with a 33 percent lower risk of dying.

"It was fascinating to see the results because the current national focus is on moderate or vigorous activity," said lead study author Srinivasan Beddhu, MD, professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine, in a press release. "To see that light activity had an association with lower mortality is intriguing."

4. Walking treats lower back pain.

In a small study, medical professionals from Tel Aviv University gathered 52 adults with lower back issues and divided them into two groups. One participated in a clinic-based muscle strengthening program (two to three sessions per week for six weeks), while the other group was instructed to complete a walking program (walking two to three times a week for six weeks, starting at 20 minutes per walk and progressing to 40 minutes).

These findings, which were published in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation in 2013, indicated that both groups improved in all areas of assessed for pain levels — such as experiencing muscle and walking endurance, having feelings of disability, and avoiding daily activities — and that the walking program was "as effective as treatment that could have been received in the clinic."

5. Walking boosts creativity.

Moving your legs may also get the creative juices flowing. In one of four experiments published in a 2014 edition of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, researchers found that the college students and adults who took a short walk — either indoors or outdoors — came up with double the amount of creative responses compared to those who were instructed to stay seated.

"I thought walking outside would blow everything out of the water, but walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room still had strong results, which surprised me," said study co-author Marily Oppezzo, PhD, of Santa Clara University in a press release. "We're not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo. But it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity."

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