Walk Your Way to Better Health!

Walking may be one of the most powerful “medicines” available

I believe that walking is the most underrated form of exercise! The benefits of walking are overwhelming. As a physiotherapist at Fortius Physiotherapy, it is the one exercise that I tend to suggest for a vast amount of patients to improve their health. There are so many helpful components to walking that people are not aware of and that is why I would be happy to list just a few of those benefits for you today.

It Can Help You Lose Weight

A brisk 30-minute walk burns 200 calories. Over time, calories burned can lead to pounds dropped. You can burn enough calories to lose weight if you walk fast enough and far enough. For example, a 155-pound person burns about 267 calories walking at a moderate (3.5 miles per hour) pace on a flat surface for one hour. That same person could burn up to 439 calories an hour hiking a mountain trail while wearing a backpack. Since there are roughly 3,500 calories in a pound of body fat, taking brisk walks – without any changes in your diet – can help you drop as much as a pound a week!

It Helps Your Heart

Walking wards off heart disease, brings up the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and strengthens the heart. Post-menopausal women who walk just one to two miles a day can lower their blood pressure by nearly 11 points in 24 weeks. Women who walk 30 minutes a day can reduce their risk of stroke by 20%, and by 40% when they increase the pace, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

It Stimulates Your Bones, Joints and Muscles

Walking can help protect your knees, hips, and other joints because it helps lubricate and strengthen the muscles that support them. The majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply. It gets its nutrition from joint fluid that circulates as we move. Movement and compression from walking “squishes” the cartilage, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the area.

Walking tones your 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 to your muscles.

Walking can stop the loss of bone mass for those with osteoporosis, according to doctors at Plancher Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in New York. In fact, one study of post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40%.

Walking also may benefit people living with arthritis, helping to reduce pain and moving the joint fluid to lubricate joints. Walking 5 to 6 miles a week may also help prevent arthritis.

It Improves Energy Levels and Healing Rates

When walking, your breathing rate increases, causing oxygen to travel faster through the bloodstream, this helps to eliminate waste products and improve your energy level and the ability to heal. Going for a walk when you’re tired may give you more of an energy boost than grabbing a cup of coffee. Walking increases oxygen flow through the body. It can also increase levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, the hormones that elevate energy levels.

It's a Natural Painkiller and Improves Your Mood

Walking releases natural pain killing endorphins to the body – one of the emotional benefits of exercise. A California State University, Long Beach, study showed that the more steps people took during the day, the better their moods were. Studies show walking can help mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative moods. It can also improve self-esteem and reduce symptoms of social withdrawal.

It Can Help to Reduce Memory Loss

A study of 6,000 women, ages 65 and older, performed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that age-related memory decline was lower in those who walked more. The women walking 2.5 miles per day had a 17% decline in memory, as opposed to a 25% decline in women who walked less than a half-mile per week.

A study from the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville 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 than those who walked less.

It Helps to maintain Daily Function

Aerobic walking and resistance exercise programs may reduce the incidence of disability in the activities of daily living for people who are older than 65 and have symptomatic OA, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management found.

It Can Help You Sleep

Studies found that women, ages 50 to 75, who took one-hour morning walks, were more likely to relieve insomnia than women who didn’t walk.

It Can Reduce Blood Sugar

Taking a short walk after eating may help lower your blood sugar. One study found that taking a 15-minute walk three times a day – after breakfast, lunch, and dinner – improved blood sugar levels more than walking for 45 minutes at other times of the day.

It Helps Control a Sweet Tooth

A British study found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat when you’re stressed. Walking can also reduce cravings and intake of other sugary snacks.

It Reduces Cancer Risk

An American Cancer Society study found that going for regular walks – even if they don’t meet the recommended 150 minutes a week – can significantly reduce cancer risks in both men and women.

It Boosts Immune Function

Walking may reduce your risk of catching a cold or getting the flu. One study found that adults who walked at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes a day had 43% fewer sick days and fewer upper respiratory tract infections overall. If they did get sick, their symptoms were milder than those of sedentary adults.

It Prolongs Years On Your Life

Research finds that people who exercise regularly in their fifties and sixties are 35% less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts. That number shoots up to 45% less likely for those who have underlying health conditions.

It Can Improve Your Creativity

One study found people were more creative thinkers while walking, particularly outdoors. Researchers concluded that walking opens up a free flow of ideas. This is possibly due to the increased blood flow to the brain and body with walking.

Best of ALL…… IT'S FREE!!!!

No car, no gym, no equipment, other than a good pair of walking shoes.

You can control your pace, you can take in your surroundings. Be present in your walk - take in the sights of the outdoors, the smells of the seasonal air and the sounds of the birds chirping and nature around you.

Change up your Walking Style

Try pole walking - it's a great way to support your posture, activate more muscles and a different and more stimulating workout while preventing falls.

FORTIUS PHYSIOTHERAPIST TIP: 2 ways to prevent injuries when walking

Stand tall. Leaning forward or hunching over makes it more difficult to breathe and can cause backaches. To avoid this problem, extend your spine as if you were being lifted from the crown of your head. Place your thumbs on your lower ribs and your fingertips on your hips. As you stand tall, notice how the distance between your fingers increases.

Look up. Looking at your feet puts unnecessary stress on your upper back and neck. Bring your gaze out about 10 to 20 feet in front of you. You’ll still be able to see ahead and you’ll prevent upper-body tension.

With all of these potential benefits to walking, it is quite probable that we all fall into one category listed here or another. If you would like further information an how to begin exercise to improve your individual health, call us at Fortius Physiotherapy (Niagara, Fort Erie, Thorold)

**Thank you to the Arthritis Foundation and Harvard University for the research in compiling this blog.