The American Heart Association’s National Walking Day invites everyone to do their hearts a favor today (and every day). Get out and enjoy a good walk!
Walking is such great exercise for a lot of reasons. First, it’s easy to do. You only need a pair of comfortable walking shoes and you’re ready to go. Second, walking is heart healthy. It can help strengthen your heart as well as lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Along the way, a regular walking routine can also help you lose weight, tone your leg, ab and gluteal muscles, and increase your vitamin D, which is good for bones and your immune system. It’s even been shown that walking six miles or more per week can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s1. And it doesn’t matter what age, stage of health or level of fitness you’re at. Almost anyone can start a walking habit at any time.

Additionally, research has shown that most other forms of light exercise can offer measurable health benefits, especially as you age. An article in the May/June 2015 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion revealed that older adults (over 65) who participated in light exercise for 5 hours a week were healthier than their peers who did not do likewise. According to the study, the participants showed lower BMI, smaller waist size, better insulin rates and were less likely to have chronic diseases.2 Light-intensity exercise in this study included light walking, slow dancing, table tennis, and even household chores. Conversely, too much time spent sitting has been linked to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, colon and breast cancers.

The point is that it’s important to get off the couch and replace those sedentary activities, like watching TV or sitting at the computer half the day, with something like walking or anything else that gets you moving.3

1Raji CA, et al “Physical activity and brain structure in healthy aging and cognitive impairment” RSNA 2010. 2Paul D. Loprinzi, Hyo Lee, and Bradley J. Cardinal (2015) Evidence to Support Including Lifestyle Light-Intensity Recommendations in Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults. American Journal of Health Promotion: May/June 2015, Vol. 29, No. 5, pp. 277-284. 3