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When it comes to exercise, it’s easy to come up with excuses to stay in front of the TV. Running is hard on the joints, plus you can get cramps in your sides. Pilates can be expensive. Swimming, well who wants to get wet? But walking? It’s easy on the joints, you can do it inside, and there is no cost. Plus, the health benefits of walking are immense.
A study conducted by the University of Tennessee found women who walk regularly had less body fat than those who did not. But the benefits don’t stop there. Walking is good for you in many ways.
Enjoying a walk will also reduce the risk of heart disease, lower your blood pressure and actually strengthen the heart. Studies by the University of Colorado and the University of Tennessee found post-menopausal women walking one to two miles a day lowered blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks. Women who walked 30 minutes a day reduced the risk of stroke by 20 percent.
Walking can stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis, according to Michael A. Schwartz, MD, of Plancher Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in New York.
Recent research out of the University of Michigan Medical School and the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System has found people in their 50s and 60s who exercise regularly are 35 percent less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts. It increases to 45 percent less likely for those who have underlying health conditions.
A California State University, Long Beach, study showed the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were. This is because walking releases natural painkilling endorphins to the body, one of the emotional benefits of exercise.
A brisk 30-minute walk burns 200 calories. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropped.
Walking tones leg and abdominal muscles, and even arm muscles if you pump them as you walk. This increases your range of motion, shifting the pressure and weight from your joints and muscles, which are meant to handle weight, helping to lessen arthritis pain.
A study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found women, ages 50 to 75, who took one-hour morning walks, were more likely to relieve insomnia than women who didn’t walk.
The majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply but gets its nutrition from synovial or joint fluid that circulates as we move. Impact that comes from movement or compression, such as walking, “squishes” the cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area. If you don’t walk, joints are deprived of life-giving fluid, which can speed deterioration.
When walking, your breathing rate increases, causing oxygen to travel faster through bloodstream, helping to eliminate waste products and improve your energy level and ability to heal.
A study of 6,000 women, ages 65 and older, performed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found age-related memory decline was lower in those who walked more. The women walking 2.5 miles per day had a 17-percent decline in memory, as opposed to a 25-percent decline in women who walked less than a half-mile per week.
A study from the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville found men between the ages of 71 and 93 who walked more than a quarter of a mile per day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared to those who walked less.
Aerobic walking and resistance exercise programs may reduce the incidence of disability in the activities of daily living of people who are older than 65 and have symptomatic OA, shows a study published in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management.