If you’re looking to get in shape and don’t have the time or money for a gym membership, walking is the best workout. It’s cheap, it’s easy, does not require any special equipment and it’s fun to do with a friend. But beyond that, walking has many health benefits that are often overlooked.
The evidence on the benefits of walking is overwhelming. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh recently revealed that overweight people who walked briskly for 30 to 60 minutes a day lost weight even if they didn’t change any other lifestyle habits.
Another study found that people who walked for at least four hours a week gained less weight (an average nine pounds less) than those who led a sedentary lifestyle as they got older. Researchers at the University of Colorado found that regular walking helped to prevent peripheral artery disease (which impairs blood flow in the legs and causes leg pain in one-fifth of older people).
Walking can even prevent colds and boost your immune system. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts medical school found that people who walked every day had 25 percent fewer colds than those who did not.
Because walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it can also help prevent osteoporosis. Bones are like muscles – the more demands you place on them, the stronger and denser they get. The pull of a muscle against a bone, together with the force of gravity when you walk, will stress the bone — which responds by stimulating tissue growth and renewal.
Perhaps best of all, walking improves your mood. Scientists have found walking 30 minutes a day three to four times a week has been shown to enhance the mood of those suffering from depression. Psychologists at the University of Illinois found that after six weeks, a 20-minute power walk at lunchtime could be comparable to a course of psychotherapy.
It’s easy to get started. Like any exercise, you need to start small and work your way up. Start by taking a 15 minute walk a few times a week. Gradually over time, increase the time and frequency of your walks, being careful not to make the progression too fast. Health experts recommend walking 10,000 steps a day (about five miles) to stay healthy. Having a smart watch or step counter can help you achieve this goal. Now’s the time to take that first step.