Why Walk?

So many workouts, so many excuses.  Running? Cramps in you side.  Swimming? Hate getting wet.  Pilates? Expensive.  Spin class? A headache.  Walking? Um…Finally, an exercise truly devoid of downsides.  It may not be flashy or cool, but according to growing scientific evidence, walking, done often and properly, can deliver an array of benefits that are just as impressive as those often gained from sportier regimens.

Here’s proof that slow and steady trumps fast, furious, and inconsistent. A 2013 Australian study tracked the weight of 822 subjects and found that, over the course of four years, the average person gained 3.5 pounds. But the participants didn’t pack on the pounds equally. Those who walked to work gained, on average, two pounds less than did people who took their cars, even when the car commuters were physically active at other times of the day.


It Strengthens Memory

According to a 2011 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, elderly subjects who walked for 40 minutes three times a week for a year experienced a 2 percent average increase in size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion. Those who did stretching exercises instead saw their hippocampi decline in volume by 1.4 percent on average. It’s unclear what caused these changes, but Kirk Erickson, Ph.D., the lead author of the study, suspects that increased blood flow and growth in connections between cells may be contributing factors.

It Protects You From Heart Disease

Any activity that gradually gets your heart rate up is good for your cardiovascular health, and this is exactly what happens when you run or walk fast. But if that’s not your speed, there’s another option: walking longer. In a 2013 study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, both daily runners and walkers lowered their blood pressure by at least 4.2 percent and their risk of heart disease by at least 4.5 percent. To reach the calorie burn of a run, the walkers covered a distance about 1½ times farther than that of the runners.


Walking Benefits

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