Over 80% of people in the U.S. don’t meet the recommended physical activity guidelines from the government. These guidelines include moderate to vigorous exercise and muscle-strengthening activities. The reason behind this is the lack of access to sports facilities and the limitations in trails and bike lanes for people to exercise on a regular basis.
Despite the obvious issues, there’s still one way that people can move more, and that is through walking. Walking doesn’t require any equipment or special facilities, making it accessible to practically every able bodied American. Additionally, walking has a lot of surprising health benefits.
If you’re curious about these benefits that come with walking on a regular basis, keep reading below:
It steadies your blood sugar
Blood sugar is the body’s main source of energy. When blood sugar levels are too high, it can cause complications with vision and vomiting. Even worse, it can lead to diabetes. Meanwhile, blood sugar levels that are too low can cause dizziness and nausea. In extreme cases, it can lead to seizures. Luckily, walking can help avoid some of these issues. Research shows that walking 10,000 steps a day can help stabilize blood sugar. For the people who walk this amount of steps every day, they have lower glucose and insulin in their blood after eating. As a result, they are at a lower risk of developing diabetes in the future. Most smartphones and smartwatches can track steps, so make sure to keep track of your progress on your next walk.
It boosts your immune system
Walking outdoors can boost the immune system. The vitamin D from the sun contributes to healthy immune function, something that you cannot get from eating vitamins. This is because sunlight makes your T cells — which are responsible for protecting you from infections — more responsive. Walking outdoors can thus help them respond to foreign elements in your body much faster and more efficiently. While walking in the sun is beneficial, don’t forget to put on sunscreen or seek shade once in a while to prevent skin damage.
It lessens mental decline risks
Mental decline is typically characterized by memory loss and frequent confusion. While this is common when aging, some people develop severe memory loss. Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. While aging doesn’t necessarily cause it, the disease is more common among people over 60 years of age. Still, one study has shown that walking is a physical activity that reduces mental decline — as well as Alzheimer’s. After examining volunteers that engaged in physical activity for 10 days, the researchers concluded that regular exercise (which includes walking) is related to better cognitive aging and reduces risks of neurodegenerative diseases. If you’d like to keep your brain as healthy as possible, it’s important to incorporate daily walks into your lifestyle.
It lengthens your life span
Several studies reveal that walking offers longevity benefits. In one study, participants that walked more steps daily had a 40% to 53% lower risk of death compared to those who walked less. For younger adults, the number of steps recommended is between 8,000 and 10,000 a day. Older adults should aim for between 6,000 and 8,000. Even just a little movement can increase your lifespan, so make sure to stay as close to these recommendations as possible.
Walking is not only a great way to stay active — it also presents unique health benefits. Try walking on a regular basis with friends and family. And who knows, you may even find a love for walking marathons (which aid in weight loss and overall fitness) while you’re at it.