Inactivity is the biggest killer worldwide, inactive lifestyle brings along many dreadful health hazards such as obesity, Hypertension, Diabetes, the risk of Heart diseases, stress, depression, etc. The list can be huge. Following an active lifestyle with making a habit of daily physical activity in the form of exercise, jogging, walking, running can keep many of such health hazards at bay! Any kind of physical activity is beneficial for our body, but walking is just as or even more useful since:
- It is easy to do, no special training or guidance is required.
- It is low impact exercise and less likely to injure your joints and ligaments.
- It is not time, place or person dependent
- It does not require special clothing or gear and costs nothing thus economical.
- No age limit
- It is free
- Works out maximum number of muscles in your body at the same time.
Walking can be tremendously helpful for those struggling with chronic diseases such as Type-2 Diabetes, High Blood pressure, Depression, Constipation, Fatigue, Arthritis, etc.
Let’s see one by one the health benefits of regular walking:
- HELPS TO REDUCE EXCESS WEIGHT & EXCESS BODY FAT:
Like many other exercises, walking also improves cardio-respiratory endurance. It reduces insulin resistance and also increases secretion of certain hormones which promotes the loss of accumulated excess fat within our body. This hormone secretion also promotes protein synthesis, which has a beneficial effect on muscle growth (increase in muscle tissues) and muscle strength. This helps in the reduction in body weight, waist circumference with an overall positive impact on the level of obesity.
- PROTECTS SUFFERING FROM DIABETES MELLITUS AND HELPS IN CONTROLLING HIGH BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS IN DIABETICS:
Regular physical activity like daily walking caused weight loss & reduction in excess body fats. This results in a decrease in insulin resistance and improvement in insulin sensitivity within our body. Also, the muscles are worked out effectively during walking, and their requirement of glucose as an energy source is increased in this coupled with improved insulin sensitivity manifests in effective utilisation of blood glucose in the muscles and various body tissues and cells. This helps in reducing or controlling high blood sugar levels in Diabetic people and also protects those at risk from getting Diabetes mellitus.
- IMPROVES BLOOD CIRCULATION & KEEPS OUR HEART HEALTHY:
Regular physical activity like walking at moderate pace exercises the multiple muscles in our body. Exercising muscles require more blood and oxygen for their proper nutrition. To meet this demand heart has to pump more blood to these exercising muscles. During walking certain chemicals are released into our body which are responsible for the relaxation and dilatation of blood vessels thus, it helps in smooth flow of blood (Blood Circulation) throughout our body including blood flow to the heart muscles as well, which keeps our heart in a healthy condition.
- PREVENTION OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (HYPERTENSION):
Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of blood vessels through which it is flowing. Resistance to the blood flow due to stiffness or narrowing of the blood vessels is one of the causative factors in the development of high blood pressure. Ageing, Insulin resistance, oxidative stress, inflammation are associated with the release in certain chemicals in the body which is responsible for stiffness and narrowing of blood vessels. Psychological stress is another factor which can also increase blood pressure through different mechanisms. Regular walking is a good exercise which can improve the secretion of chemicals which cause relaxation and dilation of blood vessels and also reduce the inflammation, oxidative stress & insulin resistance thus effectively reducing the levels of chemicals that are responsible for stiffness and narrowing of blood vessels. Walking also helps in reduction in mental stress. Therefore, it helps in maintaining healthy blood pressure and prevention of hypertension.
- IMPROVES BLOOD LIPID (CHOLESTEROL) LEVELS & REDUCES THE RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASES:
Increased concentration of LDL-Cholesterol and Triglycerides (Bad Cholesterols) in the blood is associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis (formation plaques in blood vessels) that in turn, increase the risk of myocardial infarction (Heart attack) and Stroke (Paralysis). Whereas the presence of HDL-Cholesterol (Good Cholesterol) in optimum concentration has a protective effect against Cardiovascular diseases. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) is a strong, consistent, and independent predictor of cardiovascular events, which has been confirmed by many clinical studies. Regular physical activity such as Walking not only helps to decrease Bad cholesterol (LDL and Triglycerides) levels but also improves HDL cholesterol (Good Cholesterol) levels thus, reduce the risk of suffering from Cardiovascular diseases such as Myocardial Infarction or Stroke (Paralysis).
- INCREASE THE FUNCTIONING OF OUR LUNGS & IMPROVES ASTHMATIC & RESPIRATORY CONDITIONS:
Regular brisk walking (Approx. 30 min/day) is a type of aerobic exercise. It can strengthen our lungs and increase lung capacity. Which can improve our breathing capacity and pattern. This can help overall better functioning of our lungs and can also help to improve Asthmatic and other respiratory conditions. Brisk 30-minute walks increase lung capacity. This also strengthens the lungs. With increased lung capacity, you will breathe easier, and your lungs will stay healthier longer.
- BOOSTS (STRENGTHENS) OUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Taking a moderately-paced walk for between 30 and 45 minutes daily is beneficial for strengthening our immune system. How? Let’s see,
- Walking regularly can increase the number of immune system cells (White blood cells) that can fight against and remain elevated for several hours after walking which can have a cumulative effect in protecting us against various infections over time.
- Stress can make us vulnerable to various diseases. Regular walking slows down the release of stress hormones and increases their active metabolism. This reduces stress and may protect us against falling ill.
- There can be a brief rise in body temperature during and right after the physical activity like walking at a moderate pace, which, may prevent bacteria from growing. This temperature rise may also help our body fight infection better.
- REDUCTION IN JOINT PAIN AND RISK OF ARTHRITIS:
Excess body weight due to Obesity is a known risk factor for joint pain &arthritis (e.g. Knee joint). Excess body weight is associated with mechanical overloading of weight-bearing joints in the body which can damage the cartilage of these joint, that in turn leads to the development of arthritis. Also, certain hormones released from the excess fat present in the body of an obese person induce inflammation in the joints and makes them prone to the development of arthritis. Regular physical activity like walking helps in reduction of excess body fat and body weight and in turn, reduces stress on the joints which helps in reducing the risk of arthritis & improves the pain and discomfort in arthritic joints.
- STRENGTHENS OUR LEGS & IMPROVES BALANCE AND COORDINATION:
The sense of balance typically worsens with age & poor balance often leads to falls, which can increase the risk of fractures, head injuries and injuries at various other places in the body. (e.g. Fracture to the hip can lead to serious health complication and jeopardise independence.). A simple & safe physical activity such as walking can help in building up lower body strength by strengthening of muscles (Especially muscles in the lower limbs) and health of bones. This helps in improving balance and coordination especially in older adults, thus reduce the risk of falls and injuries.
- STRENGTHENS OUR BONES & REDUCES RISK OF FRACTURES:
Regular physical activity such as walking is associated with slowing down of Age-related decline in bone density and bone strength. Thus, it helps in preserving bone strength for a more extended period (Keeps our bones healthy). It also strengthens our muscles especially that of lower limbs which improves the lower limbs strength and also improves balance. This reduces the risk of falls and suffering from fractures.
- IMPROVES VITAMIN D LEVELS
Taking a regular walk in the morning is associated with increased exposure of our skin to the sunlight. This, in turn, helps in increasing the Vitamin-D level and vitamin D stores in the body.
- REDUCE STRESS:
When we are facing day to day life situations which can be stressful many times. Our body reacts to these situations by releasing certain chemicals (E.g. Adrenaline, Noradrenaline & cortisol, into our blood. This is a standard, part of our natural "fight or flight" response. But when these chemicals build up within our body, we become prone to long-term health problems such as high blood pressure, Increase acidity etc. Regular physical activity in the form of daily walking can reduce stress by effectively metabolising these stress chemicals. It also causes the release of certain substances such as endorphins that lower pain and lead to an overall feeling of well-being.
- IMPROVES MENTAL ATTITUDE:
Regular exercise in the form of Daily Walking increases the blood circulation to the particular parts of the brain which controls mood and motivational behavior (e.g. Limbic system, Amygdala, Hippocampus, HPA-axis). This increased circulation of blood in these areas can have a positive effect on improvement in mood and Mental attitude. alertness and reduction in stress & tiredness.
- HELPS TO COMBAT DEPRESSION
Walking as an essential part of regular physical activity leads to the secretion of certain chemicals (Hormones) in our brain such as serotonin and endorphins. These chemicals produce the effect of the overall feeling of well being which may help to combat depression.
- IMPROVES MEMORY & REDUCES RISK OF DEMENTIA & ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE:
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is associated with irreversible death of brain cells mainly in part (Hippocampus) that is involved in memory, learning and cognitive skills. Regular physical activity in the form of walking can improve the blood circulation in the brain and also improve the supply oxygen to the brain which may help in preventing the irreversible loss of brain cells and associated decline in cognitive, memory and learning skills, thus, it may protect against Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and improve memory.
- REDUCE RISK OF CANCER:
Specific clinical studies have documented the evidence that regular walking through various mechanism can help in the reduction of risk of suffering from many types of cancers.
- IMPROVES QUALITY & EFFICIENCY OF SLEEP:
Regular exercise like daily walking can help in reducing stress, anxiety and other mood disorder. Stress is a common cause of sleep problems, including trouble falling asleep and restless sleep during the night. Thus, regular walking has a positive effect on Quality of sleep, amount of deep sleep, total sleep time, Time to fall asleep, and overall efficiency of sleep.
- HELPS IN REDUCING ACID REFLUX & CONSTIPATION:
A sedentary lifestyle is associated with the delay in emptying food from the stomach, which may cause retention of solid food, distension of abdomen, bloating, resultantly increased acid secretion (Acidity), and relaxation of sphincter at the lower end of the food pipe (Oesophagus). These mechanisms together contribute to the reflux of gastric acid in the food pipe and resultant hyper-acidity, heartburn, etc. Moderate physical exercise like regular walking can accelerate the passage of food through the stomach and digestive system and prevents the consequences as mentioned earlier. A smooth journey of food through the digestive system ensures decreased chances of having constipation.
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