The Wonders of Walking: From Boosting Energy to Increasing Longevity, Walking Offers a Range of Health Benefits

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Brisk walking offers numerous benefits for both physical and mental well-being, says Dr. Aubrey J. Grant, a sports cardiologist with Medstar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore.
There are key advantages of incorporating walking into your routine, he says, including increased longevity and improving quality of life.

“I consider exercise medicine, and walking is a good example,” Grant says. “It is good in so many aspects of life, certainly improving cardiovascular disease by increasing your cardiovascular fitness and efficiency to reducing your risk of hypertension.”

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week. “Hitting that threshold and marker allows people to get the most benefit from exercise,” Grant says.

Brisk walking is an excellent form of aerobic exercise that can help improve heart and lung function, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Aubrey J. Grant (Courtesy)

People who walk briskly and do other forms of exercise “tend to have better outcomes for everything including heart disease and diabetes,” Grant says. “Exercise tends to stimulate parasympathetic tone and increases your nitric oxide levels in your blood. Both of those things over time can help to increase blood flow and decrease your risk for hypertension.”

Engaging in brisk walking on a regular basis can assist with weight loss and weight management by burning calories and increasing metabolism. “The exercise helps manage weight and getting an appropriate [body mass index],” he says.

Walking at a brisk pace can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression, while also promoting relaxation and overall mental well-being. It can also improve cognitive function
and boost mood through the release of endorphins.

Walking, when done energetically and uphill, can help strengthen and tone the muscles in the lower body, as well as improve bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, Grant says. “We know that as you get older, we tend to lose muscle mass and that can affect our bone health as well.”

Regular brisk walking can boost energy levels and reduce feelings of fatigue, making it an excellent way to combat sedentary lifestyles and improve overall vitality, he said.

Engaging in physical activity such as brisk walking can help regulate sleep patterns and improve the quality of sleep, leading to a more rested and rejuvenated feeling.

“Sleep is one of the most restorative things that exist for humans,” Grant says. “If you don’t get six, seven, eight hours of sleep per night, you’re going to be in a chronically stressed state.”

Walking is an accessible and affordable activity. It is low impact and requires no special equipment. It can be performed almost anywhere, making it an ideal option for people of all ages and fitness levels.

Regular moderate exercise, such as walking, can help strengthen the immune system, making the body more resilient to illness and infection.

Grant says that, if you enjoy walking, make sure it gets the heart rate up and feels like work. “The best exercise is the exercise that you do consistently. Whatever you enjoy doing, I certainly support.”

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