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Saturday, July 6, 2019
5 surprising benefits of walking
Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School
next time you have a check-up, don't be surprised if your doctor hands
you a prescription to walk. Yes, this simple activity that you've been
doing since you were about a year old is now being touted as "the
closest thing we have to a wonder drug," in the words of Dr. Thomas
Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and
Get your copy of Walking for Health
simple activity of walking has so many powerful health benefits. Done
correctly, it can be the key to losing weight, lowering blood pressure
and cholesterol, and boosting your memory,
as well as reducing your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more. Walking
for Health, created by the experts at Harvard Medical School, takes you step-by-step from why
walking may be the most perfect exercise, to how to get started on a
walking program, to specific walking workouts. It even has a special
section on walking for weight loss.
Of course, you probably know that any physical activity, including
walking, is a boon to your overall health. But walking in particular
comes with a host of benefits. Here's a list of five that may surprise
1. It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes.
Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000
people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body
weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who
walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were
cut in half.
2. It helps tame a sweet tooth.
A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute
walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of
chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research
confirms that walking can reduce cravings and intake of a variety of
3. It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer.
Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the
risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed
in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had
a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or
fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women
with breast cancer risk factors, such
as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.
4. It eases joint pain.
Several studies have found that walking reduces arthritis-related pain,
and that walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis
from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints —
especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to
osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that
5. It boosts immune function.
Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of
over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes
a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who
exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a
shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.
To learn more about the numerous benefits of walking, as well as easy ways to incorporate a walk into your daily routine, read Walking for Health, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.