If you want to get healthy or stay healthy, there is one easy activity to add to your day -- walking.
"Walking is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,” says Thomas Friedman. Friedman is the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.
And he is not alone in considering walking a great exercise.
Health experts at the Mayo Clinic, the American Heart Association, the Arthritis Foundation, Harvard Medical School and many other health research groups agree.
You may think that simply taking a walk is not enough to make a big difference. You might think that you need do something strenuous like running to stay healthy.
Well, a new study says that is not true. It finds that walking may be as good for us as running.
Running is a high-impact activity and can be hard on the body. So, many people cannot run. Walking, it seems, has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of running.
The American Heart Association explains the findings on its website. Walking quickly, or briskly, can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California did the study. Over a six-year period, they studied about 33,000 runners in the National Runners’ Health Study and just over 15,000 walkers in the National Walkers’ Health Study.
The researchers found that the same energy used for brisk walking and vigorous running “resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and possibly coronary heart disease over the study’s six years.”
The study also found that the more people walked or ran each week, the more their health benefits increased.
Dr. Russell Pate is a professor of exercise science at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. He is also a volunteer at the American Heart Association. He commented on the study on the association’s website.
Pate says the health benefits of walking are not "all or nothing." If your goal is to walk for 30 minutes a day, you can split that into three 10 minute walks.
Walking, he adds, has the lowest dropout rate of any exercise. People who start walking regularly usually stick with it.
Pate says what many other health experts say: Walking is one of the easiest and safest exercises a person can do. With walking, he says, there is no learning curve. That means you do not need to learn a lot to get results.
Walking requires no special skills or equipment. You can do it anywhere. It fits easily into your daily schedule. You can walk at work. You can park father away from a store entrance. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Walking is a great exercise for beginners. If you are out of shape or getting back into shape after an illness or accident, walking is perfect. You can do a little at a time, or as we like to say, take "baby steps."
So, walking lowers your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. But many other studies have found that walking benefits the body and mind in other ways.
For example, regular brisk walking can help you: Keep a healthy weight.
Improve your mood. Walking releases natural painkilling chemicals in the body. A study at California State University, Long Beach showed that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were.
Sharpens your mind. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, studied 6,000 women ages 65 and older. They found that age-related memory loss was lower for those who walked more.
Keep your joints healthy. The Arthritis Foundation (U.S.) explains on its website that most of the material that makes up our joints has no direct blood supply. Our joints get "nutrition from joint fluid that circulates as we move." When you walk, your joints get this "life-giving fluid," which means your joints stay stronger.
Improve your creativity. A 2014 study by Stanford University found that walking, indoors or outdoors, improved the ability to think creatively and solve problems.
Best of all, you can easily change where, when and how you walk. You can walk with your friends, co-workers, family or your dog. Or you can walk alone.
The faster, farther and more often you walk, the greater the benefits.