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Get in step with the benefits of walking

January 30, 2018

From binge watching at home to being glued to our office chairs at work, researchers estimate we now spend more than half our waking hours sitting or being sedentary. Unfortunately, all that downtime may be contributing to obesity and even shortened life spans. What’s more, prolonged sitting might be a health risk even if you’re regularly exercising.

Simplify your health goals in the new year by adding walking to your daily to-do list. During the cold, winter months, you can window shop your way around the mall, stroll through museums or walk laps on an indoor track at the gym. If you have sore joints or arthritis, walking can be a great low-impact way to get moving.

Here are just a few benefits of walking:

Walking improves circulation. It also wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of stroke and strengthens the heart.

Walking lightens mood. Studies have shown that the more steps people take during the day, the better their moods are. That’s because walking releases natural pain-killing endorphins throughout the body.

Walking can lead to weight loss. A brisk 30-minute walk burns about 200 calories, depending on your weight. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropped.

Walking strengthens muscles and bones. It tones your leg and abdominal muscles. Over time, walking can increase your range of motion and even help improve your bone density.

Walking supports your joints. The majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply, but it gets nutrition from 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.

Walking improves cognitive health. A study from the University of Virginia Health System found that 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.

Walking safely

Be sure to watch where you’re walking. Distracted walking can put you at risk of things like falling down stairs, stumbling into the street or colliding with a car. The next time you’re on a stroll:

• Keep your focus on the people and potential obstacles in front of and around you.

• Turn down the music enough to hear the traffic and other sounds around you.

• Don’t jaywalk. Cross streets carefully, preferably at a light.

• Be sure to look up, especially near curbs, intersections, stairs and escalators.

Health Strides

Lace up your walking shoes and take a walk with a physician. Get your medical questions answered in a fun and personal setting while getting some exercise! Register at HealthStridesDayton.org