If the word “exercise” fills you dread or anxiety, you are not alone. For many going to the gym is an anxiety producing thought. You may be scared of boot camps, hate the quiet of yoga, and dread bouncy instructors telling you to sweat out those calories. Just take a walk!
The Mayo Clinic has identified several benefits to brisk walking. They include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Preventing or managing health conditions, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or heart disease
- Strengthening bones and muscles
- Improving your mood
- Improving your balance and coordination
Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was quoted saying, walking is “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” Harvard has identified 5 lesser known benefits to walking. The benefits are:
- It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes. In a study of over 12,000 people, those who walked briskly for about an hour a day saw a 50% reduction in the effect of weight-promoting genes.
- It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. A study by the American Cancer Society found a 14% reduced risk of breast cancer for women who walked seven or more hours per week.
- It eases joint pain. Walking has been shown to reduce arthritis-related pain. You can also prevent arthritis by walking 5-6 miles per week.
- It helps tame a sweet tooth. Two studies showed walking can reduce chocolate cravings.
- It boosts your immune system. One study showed individuals who walked at least 20 minutes per day, 5 days per week had 43% fewer sick days than their more sedentary peers.
Where you choose to take your walk can impact the mood boosting effects. Walking in nature is best. A forest, the mountains, the beach, or the desert are all beautiful spots to walk. Walking outside in nature feels great. Take time to hear the birds, feel the air on your skin, notice the sweet smell of flowers, or hear the crashing of the waves. Allow yourself to feel each foot as it touches the ground. Notice how it’s there to meet you and support you every step you take.
Walking is a very effective form of exercise. You can do it alone or with a friend. Always remember to be aware of your surroundings and make sure to tell someone where you are walking and when you’ll be back.
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