“Walking is the single best exercise we can recommend on a large scale.”
It’s hard to ignore a recommendation like that, especially when it comes from a doctor. As well as being a physician, Dr. Bob Sallis is also a spokesperson for the Everybody Walk!, a public health campaign that is aiming to educate the public on the benefits a daily walk can do for your health. Dr. Sallis shared some of his insights with Boomer Café, which includes some health benefits of regular walk that you may not have known. These are benefits that will help improve anyone’s health, but are of specific concern to middle-aged individuals.
A short walk after dinner can help lower blood sugar– if you’re diabetic, or just concerned about your blood sugar, a 15 minute walk will do you a lot of good. “Walking burns up the sugar that’s in your blood, and it strengthens muscles so you use blood sugar more efficiently,” says Dr. Sallis. “It helps your insulin work better. The benefit is almost instantaneous.”
It’s just as good for your heart as running– running and walking both a great ways to stay healthy and bring about the same effects. Walking can help to combat heart disease as effectively as running the same distance. And while walking takes longer, it’s also easier on your joints.
As effective as physical therapy for curing back pain– a half an hour walk a few times a week will help to relieve you back pain by working your back muscles. You can skip on the back clinic and expensive therapy equipment. “When you have back pain, bed rest beyond a day or two is counterproductive,” says Dr. Sallis. “Sometimes my patients have pain that’s so bad they can’t get out of bed, can’t walk. The sooner I can get them walking, the better they will be.”
It can be a great stress reliever and help with anxiety– Walking is a healthy way to deal with your anxiety. “We’ve always assumed the biggest effect of walking was on the heart, but the most powerful effect turns out to be on the brain,” says Dr. Sallis. “When we walk, we’re less anxious, less stressed, and we feel better. For treatment of depression, a walking or biking program leads to lower remission rates than Prozac.” Research has shown that this is especially effective for women going through menopause.
More walking means better quality of life- A study done on Canadian men over 55 shows that, even for moderate daily walks, those men who walked more, enjoyed a better overall quality of life profile compared to the men who walked less. “Small bouts of exercise are additive,” says Dr. Sallis. “Three 10-minute walks have the same health benefits of one 30-minute walk. The goal is to accumulate 150 minutes of moderate intensity walking a week, but you’re still getting benefits if you don’t achieve that.”
Walking fast can keep you alive…- A study conducted with over 1,700 men aged 70 or older measured the speed at which they walked. Among the group of men who walked at a pace of 3 mph or faster, none of them died over the course of the research period. So if you walk fast enough, you could theoretically live forever!
With all those benefits in mind, is there really an excuse to not get out for a walk? I didn’t think so.