Walking 10,000 steps each day is one of the simplest and most natural ways to get healthy. And it’s also a great way to de-stress. But there are many reasons why so many people don’t walk as much as they should, including forgetting how good it feels, not having enough time, or even believing that walking isn’t all that important for health.Continue reading
Robert Sallis, M.D., a sports medicine doctor with Kaiser Permanente, states, walking is the most studied form of exercise. Multiple studies have proven that the benefits of walking improve our overall health, and increase our longevity and functional years.
We do it just about everyday of our lives, walking that is. The average moderately active person “takes around 7,500 step a day” or about 2.6 million steps a year. If you maintain that daily average and live until 80 years of age, you’ll have walked about 216,262,500 steps in your lifetime. I know personally, when I previously tracked my steps using a Fitbit watch (now an Apple watch), I passed the 20 million step mark after 7 years. Anyway, that is a great deal of walking. But have you ever wondered about the potential benefits from all of the walking that you’re doing?
For those that really love the activity, increasing your step count offers additional health benefits when it comes to walking. People that consistently walk at least 12,500 steps (6.5 miles) each day have better cardiometabolic profiles. A cardiometabolic profile or marker describes a person’s chances of having a cardiovascular event such as heart attack or stroke when one or more risk factors are present.
Here are just a few of the many benefits you receive from walking.
You Get a Boost of Energy
Walking is no exception, and the great news is you don’t have to walk for hours to experience all the benefits. Going for just a 20-minute walk for three days every week for six weeks can result in 20 percent more energy levels and less feelings of fatigue, according to research by the University of Georgia that was published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.
You’ll Lower Your Blood Sugar Levels
This particular walking benefit is a personal favorite of mine. It especially holds true if you head out for a walk right after eating a big meal (especially a high carb meal). According to a 2016 study of people who suffer from Type-2 diabetes, which was published in the journal Diabetologia, heading out for a 10-minute walk after eating a meal helped test subjects lower their blood sugar levels.
You’ll Deal Less with Anxiety & Depression
Health experts at The Mayo Clinic, report performing exercise like walking can potentially ease symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. The body releases endorphins during exercise which “enhance your sense of wellbeing.” Endorphins can also distract your mind “so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts.” Finally, they help you gain confidence “meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence.”
You’ll Burn More Calories and May Even Lose Weight
If you take a brisk 20-minute walk you’ll burn somewhere in the realm of 90 to 110 calories for your effort. For the record, a “brisk” walk is one that is fast enough that you can talk but you cannot sing. Studies also show that walking can be a terrific way to lose weight. The Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry, found women who walked over the course of a 12-week study lost belly fat. Build up to walking 30-45 minutes a day is a great first step. There are many studies showing this is the sweet spot in terms of benefits. It can broken up, into two or three mini walks, throughout the day as well.
You’ll be Heart Healthy & Live Longer
The British Journal of Sports Medicine reported in a 2018, that brisk walking was directly linked with a lower risk of heart disease and death. Also, older people (above 60 years in age) who increased their walking pace, experienced a 53 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease. A second study published in 2015, this time in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a brisk 20-minute walk every day reduces your risk of death by upwards of 30 percent.
Another Benefit of Walking is Your Bones Will Get Stronger
According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are about 28 million people in the United States who suffer from osteoarthritis, and it’s a condition that women are more prone to than men.
According to the health experts at the UK’s Ashtead Hospital, taking daily walks is crucial for healthy and strong bones. “Bone is living tissue and becomes stronger with exercise,” they write. “Walking involves your feet and legs supporting your weight so that your bones have to work harder and this makes them stronger.”
Hopefully these tips were insightful and they will keep you motivated to continue with your daily walks. Remember, “physical inactivity is as harmful to your health as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.” This according to Steven Blair, PhD, University of South Carolina, a leading exercise researcher.
Use Jefit to Record & Track Your Cardio & Strength Workouts
Try Jefit app, named best app for 2020 and 2021 by PC Magazine, Men’s Health, The Manual and the Greatist. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app also has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and has a feature to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit as you live your fitness lifestyle.
Packaging the health benefits of exercise into a bottle or pill would be comparable to finding the Holy Grail. Though that won’t happen any time soon, you can still take advantage of what exercise has to offer. According to a study published in the Lancet Psychiatry, people report an average of 3.5 days of poor mental health in a given month. The amazing thing is we already know that there are exercise strategies for improving mood and anxiety. More of us just need to take advantage of doing these types of exercise on a regular basis.
The good news regarding this topic is any form exercise – from walking to housework – will reduce that number by an average of 1.5 days a month. Playing any type of team sport, in addition to aerobic exercise, and strength training seem to have the biggest affect on mood; with reports of these activities reducing the number of mental health days by 20 percent.
Amount of Exercise Needed
Individuals who exercise for 20 to 60 minutes a day, three to five days a week, receive the most benefit, compared with those who exercise either less or more. In fact, people who exercised 23 times a month and for longer than 90 minutes per workout, actually had worse mental health compared to those who exercised less often or for shorter periods of time, as noted in the study.
The following list includes five different activities that are proven exercise strategies that will improve mood and decrease anxiety. The goal is to get more of people doing some type of daily activity. Only 23 percent of Americans, over 18 years old, exercise on a regular basis. Meaning, they perform both cardio and strength training during the week, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Manageable Exercise Strategies to Improve Mood: Walking & Hiking
These are grouped together for no particular reason other than hiking is a more challenging progression of walking. Both are great for reducing stress and improving mood. This is especially true if you happen to be walking or hiking in the forest. The Japanese actually have a name for their strolls in the forest, they call it “Shinrinyoku.” They regard their walks or hikes in the forest as being similar to natural aromatherapy.
Newer research seems to reinforce the idea that spending time out in nature can be good for your mental health. A 2015 study published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, as an example, discovered that when young adults went on a 50-minute walk out in nature, they felt less anxious and had improved memory function.
In a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, research scientists found a single bout of exercise – walking for 30-minutes – could instantly improve the mood of someone suffering from a major depressive order. Some scientists believe the reason for this is more neurobiological than anything.
“Walking and hiking works on stress by increasing arousal and energy levels and secondarily by reducing tension. The energy boost is immediate, while the tension reduction reveals itself later and over time. The enhanced energy enables you to better cope with stress, so that you are less likely to become tense in the first place.”
Running is a Big Stress Buster
Aerobic exercise, such as running, can produce positive changes in mood at least on a short-term basis across both young and older adults. Running 30-minutes during a week for three weeks has been shown to boost sleep quality, mood and concentration during the day according to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Additional research showed a positive affect on trained runners who ran on a treadmill compared to untrained subjects; moderate-intensity running versus high-intensity running was shown to be have the best impact on “mood states.”
The mental benefits of running can be especially powerful for people who suffer from high anxiety and even depression. In a 2006 review published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, researchers found evidence that exercise, like running, can work in a way that is similar to how antidepressants work.
You have probably heard before how important your breath is, especially nasal breathing. No other activity focuses more on breath than meditation and yoga. The simple act of sitting or lying supine for even a few minutes, focusing on your breath, can make an impact on both mood and stress levels. Asanas work on stretching, lengthening, balancing and releasing stress in the muscles. These various postures can help release built-up muscle tension and stiffness in the body.
According Harvard Medical School, “by reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. There is evidence that yoga also increases heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress.
Strength Training Goes a Long Way
We know regular bouts of strength training can benefit our muscles, connective tissue and bones. The affects of regular training can go well beyond that. For instance, JAMA Psychiatry, reported “people with mild to moderate depression who performed resistance training two or more days a week saw “significant” reductions in their symptoms, compared with people who did not.” The research looked at 33 randomized clinical trials involving more than 1,800 subjects, and the findings “suggested that resistance exercises may be even more beneficial for those with more severe depressive symptoms.”
Research published in American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine (2010) reviewed seven resistance training studies to determine if training could be used as an intervention for people with anxiety. Their review on this topic demonstrated that resistance training is in fact a meaningful intervention for people suffering from anxiety. Two of the seven studies compared the effects of high-intensity resistance training (80% of 1-RM) to moderate-intensity (50%-60% of 1-RM). The results indicated that anxiety was reduced more with moderate-intensity resistance training. Stay Strong with Jefit.
Yanker, G., Burton, K., Walking Medicine. McGraw-Hill Publishing, 1990.
O’Connor, P.J., Herring, M.P. and Carvalho, A. Mental health benefits of strength training in adults. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), 377-396., 2010.