On an average day, 30% of American adults walk for exercise and with good reason. Walking doesn’t require special equipment or athletic skills, yet it offers a host of health benefits — from helping you lose weight and lifting your mood to controlling diabetes and lowering your blood pressure. In fact, a recent study showed that adding 150 minutes of brisk walking to your routine each week can add 3.4 years to your lifespan.
Here are 10 surprising ways to use walking to boost your health, along with tips to make starting and sticking to a walking routine more fun.
1. Walk to Manage Your Weight
Avoiding weight gain might be as simple as taking a walk. Researchers at Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston followed more than 34,000 normal-weight women for more than 13 years. They found that, over time, the women who ate a standard diet and walked for an hour a day (or did some other similar moderate-activity exercise) were able to successfully maintain their weight.
Fun fitness tip: Buddy up for fitness — walk with a friend, neighbor, or a four-legged pal. A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that dog-owners walked more each week and were more likely to reach the recommended levels of physical activity than those who do not own dogs.
2. Walk to Get Blood Pressure in Line
A heart-pumping walking routine can help lower your blood pressure, studies show. A study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that moderate-intensity walking was just as effective as jogging at lowering risk of high blood pressure.
Fun fitness tip: Can’t find a full 30 minutes to walk? Spread it out throughout your day — 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there will add up if you stick with it. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, breaking your workout into several shorter workouts throughout the day is just as effective as one longer workout session, while also making it easier to fit exercise into your schedule.
3. Walk to Protect Against Dementia
Walking, which improves cerebral blood flow and lowers the risk of vascular disease, may help you stave off dementia, the cognitive loss that often comes with old age. According to the 2014 World Alzheimer’s Report, regular exercise is one of the best ways to combat the onset and advancement of the disease. In addition, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh conducted brain scans on seniors and found that walking at least six miles a week was linked to less brain shrinkage.
Fun fitness tip: Download upbeat music you love to listen to on your iPod, and take it with you while you walk. An analysis conducted by the American Council on Exercise found that music not only makes exercise more enjoyable, but it can also boost endurance and intensity.
Thank you Beth W. Orenstein and the Huff Post Healthy Living!