I woke up one morning with pain in my feet – I had been in my heels the whole week making marathon trips between my office and that of my boss and all that I had left me in pretty bad shape. Unfortunately, or rather, fortunately, I had promised to go for a walk with one of my girlfriends. So I put on my walking shoes and headed off with her bracing myself for the ordeal I was about to experience and though I winced in pain after we walked for a hundred metres, I noticed the pain had subsided as I walked on and by the end of our routine I felt no pain at all. I later found out that this was just one of the many benefits we get from walking.
Walking regularly does these twelve things to your body;
1. Improves heart health
A healthy heart begins with walking. When you walk for long hours and cover longer distances consistently or daily this improves your blood circulation and heart rate, lowers your blood pressure and strengthens your heart. A 30-minute brisk walk five days of the week is all you need to keep heart diseases at bay.
2. Keeps you in shape
By burning calories when you walk you can control your weight or lose weight. Depending on your weight, you can succeed in burning more calories by increasing your walking speed, covering longer distances and also scaling hilly or steep terrains more often than flat surfaces like sidewalks.
3. Lowers your blood sugar
Walking can help lower your blood sugar (which is good for preventing or managing diabetes), especially when done after eating. Moderate physical activity like walking requires quite a lot of energy and your body gets this by your muscles breaking down glucose (the sugar in your blood). This process lowers your blood sugar, especially when done over a long period. Walking also makes the insulin in your blood which is required to control your blood sugar levels work better. Make post-meal exercising such as walking after breakfast, lunch or dinner a part of your fitness routine to get this benefit.
4. Improves your sleep
Walking makes the body's sleep hormones such as melatonin work better and this helps you to sleep well. This is why planning your walking a few hours after a heavy lunch can make you sleep better at night. Walking also helps improve insomnia in postmenopausal women.
5. Improves your immunity
Your body's immunity is boosted when you walk regularly and this makes you less prone to infections such as colds or flu and even if you do catch the bug your recovery is much better than someone who doesn't exercise.
6. Energises you
The body's energy levels are controlled by hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. When you walk often, these hormones are powered to boost your energy levels. Walking also improves the flow of oxygen throughout the body (the heart pumps oxygen to your muscles so they can use it to burn down glucose into energy) and this also energises you.
7. Gives you longevity
You can increase your chances of living longer if you walk briskly daily since this reduces your chances of having medical conditions that are major causes of death such as heart diseases and cancer.
8. Improves your cognitive ability
Your brain is stimulated and functions better after a bout of physical activity. 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking fosters the growth of new brain cells which makes your creative juices flow, improves the way your brain processes information and also improves brain memory. The latter is a matter of concern as far as Alzheimer's disease is concerned; walking has been associated with low risk of Alzheimer's disease in elderly men and also the reduction of symptoms of this condition such as dementia and memory loss.
9. Powers your lungs
Your lungs are forced to expand to take in more oxygen when you walk and this is because your muscles need more of this to burn glucose into energy to power your active body. This helps to improve your lung volume over a while and this means that your lungs can reserve a lot of oxygen and so you breathe well, your lungs become stronger and you don't experience shortness of breath. Powering your lungs fights off upper respiratory ailments and this is very key especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
10. Strengthens your joints
Walking massages your joints (especially your knees and hips) and this eases the pain in them which may be caused by too much strain and bad posture. Moreover, the movement from walking makes the joint fluid circulate to supply oxygen and nutrients to your joints to keep them strong and healthy. This is why walking can be good for preventing arthritis and reducing the pain this condition causes.
11. Strengthens your muscles and bones
The muscles in your legs and abdomen are made firmer and stronger when you walk a lot. Regular brisk walking also helps to maintain bone density or prevent bone loss which is good for those prone to osteoporosis; as it strengthens the bones and prevents possible future fractures, especially for postmenopausal women.
12. Puts you in a good mood
Taking regular walks enhances the body's production or release of endorphins which are a group of hormones needed to relieve you of stress and depression. Exercising also releases some of your 'happy hormones' such as serotonin and dopamine and these two body processes are responsible for triggering that 'feel good' mood you sometimes experience.
Walking has been underrated as a physical activity but it is free, easy to do, cheaper because it doesn't require any special equipment, poses very little health risks, can be done anytime and at any place, is mostly safe and what's more, it could be your best option for exercising during COVID-19 – so don't you put away your walking shoes!
By Nana Ama Afoa Osae I Writer I GreatWonderful Team
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