Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but heart disease is preventable and controllable. Here are just a few tips about what walking can do to assist you in your quest to be healthy.
1. Fends off the #1 killer: Regular walkers have fewer heart attacks and strokes, have lower blood pressure, and have higher levels of healthy HDL cholesterol than sedentary folks. In one study of women, a regular walking program did just as much in the heart-protection department as more vigorous exercise did.
2. Changes your actual age: As little as 90 days after starting a regular walking program, its age-reducing effects can be measured.
3. Dims your chances of diabetes: Thirty minutes of walking a day makes your muscles more sensitive to insulin. That allows glucose to do its duty inside your cells rather than accumulate in your bloodstream (that's what happens when you have diabetes) and cause other health problems.
4. Helps you kick the habit: Taking a daily 30-minute walk is one of the keys to the success for quitting smoking. Even just a 5-minute walk cuts down on cigarette cravings -- it engages your brain's emotion centers, unleashing mood-enhancing hormones that decrease cravings and take your mind off that cigarette. And establishing a walking habit proves to you that you have the discipline to stick with your stop-smoking plan.
5. Slims you down: Burn more calories than you eat, and suddenly you're wearing one-size-smaller clothing or your current clothes fit better. Plus, walking can help squelch chocolate cravings and nix the stress and anxiety that often lead to overeating.
6. Keeps you sharp: Physical activity nourishes brain tissue and stimulates its production of neurons, synapses, and blood vessels. Some studies have found that walking can counter faltering memories in people over age 50.
7. Reduces stress: Anyone who has come back from a walk in a different frame of mind than they went out with can attest to this. Studies back up that walking benefits your mood -- and may even ward off depression and anxiety.
8. Revs up your energy: Not only can a walk perk you up when you need it, but also it helps improve the quality of your sleep, so you're more energetic all day long.
9. Boosts your immune system: Walking regularly can lower your risk of arthritis, macular degeneration, and even cancer by an astonishing 50% compared with people who don't exercise.
10. Keeps you going: Walking has the highest compliance rate of any exercise.