Walking has always been my cardio of choice — it’s free, requires no equipment other than a pair of sturdy sneakers, and you can do it anywhere, anytime! What’s not to love? But walking has a ton of excellent health benefits beyond being easy and convenient. Adding more steps to your day will not only help you blast away fat and maintain a healthy weight, but it also keeps your heart and muscles working efficiently. Here are some of the top ways walking will boost your overall health:
It strengthens your heart. I designed my walking program to increase your heart rate and keep it high for a certain period of time. This increases the amount of oxygen delivered to your heart and muscles, which allows them to work longer and more efficiently — and muscles that frequently receive oxygen-rich blood stay healthier. A Nurse's Health Study found that women who walked three hours or more per week reduced their risk of a heart attack or other coronary event by a whopping 35 percent!
It revs your metabolism. The best part about daily cardio is that your metabolism stays charged for up to two hours after your workout ends, so you’ll continue to burn fat and calories even after you have stopped exercising. Plus, the more you walk, the more you will increase your muscle mass, which boosts your body’s metabolic rate — meaning you burn more calories even when you’re inactive. Did you know that fat burns 2 calories per pound, while muscle at rest burns 6 to 10 calories per pound? In that way, cardio is like a gift to your body that keeps on giving—and you definitely deserve it!
It keeps you from getting sick. A heart-pumping walking program has also been proven to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, manage blood glucose levels, prevent cancer, and build stronger bones. Women who performed the equivalent of one hour and 15 minutes to two and a half hours per week of brisk walking had an 18 percent decreased risk of breast cancer compared with inactive women. And the Diabetes Prevention Program showed that walking 150 minutes per week and losing just 7 percent of your body weight (12-15 pounds) can reduce your risk of diabetes by 58 percent!
It combats depression. Feeling blue? Going for a walk can help with that too! Cardio exercise like walking has been proven to be an effective mood-booster in women with mild depression. One study revealed that walking for 30 minutes, three to five times per week for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of depression by 47 percent! Walking also helps by reducing the amount of stress hormones in your body.
It’s a great stress-reducer. We’re busier than ever these days, with family, work, and household obligations pulling us in a zillion directions. Even the little things — ringing phones, screaming kids, barking dogs, and the constant notifications from your smartphone — can easily leave you feeling tense. Not only is chronic stress unhealthy, it can also lead to emotional eating, a major cause of weight gain. A daily walk will help clear your mind, ease that tension and keep you feeling happy and energized.
It helps battle PMS and menopause. Attention, ladies! Here’s a benefit you’ll love: Because of the rise of endorphins (the body’s feel-good hormones) that comes with aerobic exercise, walking can help combat the cravings, irritability, fluid retention, and other symptoms associated with PMS. And if you are like many women experiencing menopause, your metabolism may be slow, leading you to feel sluggish and have unexplained weight gain. Walking regularly can help reverse this weight gain and permanently boost your metabolism.