In fact, there are many health benefits to be gained from walking. The Mayo Health Clinic states that it can help
- Lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol)
- Raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol)
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce your risk of or manage type 2 diabetes
- Manage your weight
- Improve your mood
- Help you stay strong and fit (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/walking/HQ01612)
In addition to these benefits, a recent article at the American Association of Retired People (AARP) called it "the easiest exercise" and went on to say that "it will help you maintain your independence and ability to do daily tasks as you age" (http://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-12-2011/walking-health-benefits.html). And, there is the additional benefit of it being an activity that you can share with others - even pets! - which can lend a more social aspect.
Even though this is a task that we perform every day, if you have not previously been walking for long periods of time, there are some precautions you should take before you get started:
- Be sure to have comfortable shoes and clothing - consider layering clothes to make it easier to adjust to temperature
- Use correct posture
- Warm up by starting out walking slowly and then gradually increase your pace
- Stretch your muscles - ideally both before and after you walk
- Cool down after your session to help reduce the stress on your heart and muscles (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/walking/HQ01612)
There are many mental benefits to walking, as well, and as I was walking yesterday I remembered that Charles Dickens was a great walker. I knew that he routinely walked many miles on a daily basis, but I was surprised at just how many - up to 20 miles a day according to this article: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1067056/index.htm! I found it interesting that these walks not only helped spur his creativity, but they also helped relieve some of the mental pressure that he seems to have faced as a serious writer.
I plan to keep with my walking habit. When it gets too cold outside, I will move indoors to the treadmill. Walking indoors loses some of the atmosphere that I enjoy while being outside, but I still get most of the great benefits of this type of exercise. Do you have any thoughts to share on walking as a health benefit?