Sitting is the smoking of our generation, according to a Harvard Business Review article. Walking is the answer. A mountain of research brings this fact to light. Walking is a free, easy, low-impact way to combat adverse health effects of prolonged sitting, and so many other health ills. You don’t have to train for a marathon to combat unhealthy impacts of sitting. Just walk. It’s good for the body and mind.
“Walking is the closest thing to a magic bullet for health,” says Dr. Graham Colditz of Washington University School of Medicine. Put another way by Mayo Clinic obesity expert Dr. James Levine, “You don’t have to join a gym… You just have to switch off the TV, get off the sofa and go for a walk.”
1. Lose Weight by Living in a Walkable Neighborhood
Want a quick and easy way to lose weight? Find a walkable place to live. The average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs 6-10 pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood. Neighborhoods with poor walkability are barriers to physical activity, while research shows people walk more if living in a walkable neighborhood.
Walkability impacts public health by “…affecting the relative convenience and viability of pedestrian travel and biking for both recreational and utilitarian (trip) purposes, and thus they influence the levels of physical activity,” reads a study from Georgia Institute of Technology.
Offset obesity by walking: A study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that people genetically prone to obesity can offset that tendency by walking. A brisk one-hour daily walk reduced the influence of obesity by half.
2. Walk to Combat Cancer
Women who walked 1 to 3 hours per week had risk of death from breast and uterine cancer reduced by 19%. When they walked 3 to 5 hours per week, their risks of the same cancers were reduced by 54%, according to a study by Harvard University.
Men who walk briskly for at least 3 hours a week after being diagnosed with prostate cancer were 57% less likely to see the disease progress.
3. Walk to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center writes, “An analysis of numerous studies on walking and heart disease concluded that the risk for developing heart disease decreases as the amount of walking increases.” Retired men who walk more than 1.5 miles per day had a significantly lower risk for heart disease (compared to men who walk less), according to a New England Journal of Medicine study. Walking at a moderate pace (3 to 4 miles per hour) for up to 3 hours each week (equates to 30 minutes a day) can cut women’s heart disease risk by 40%, according to a Harvard study.
4. Walk to Reduce Blood Pressure
A Korean Institute of Sport Science study proved a decrease in blood pressure in those who followed a walking exercise similar to the recommended 30 minutes per day, five times a week given by the American College of Sports Medicine.
5. Walk to Reduce Diabetes Risk
A New England Journal of Medicine study tied walking with reduced risk of diabetes. The study of more than 3,000 overweight adults found that walking 2.5 hours per week (along with a healthy diet) reduced the risk by 58% of getting diabetes. For overweight adults 60 years and older, the reduced risk was 71%.
6. Walk to Keep Arteries Unclogged
A Journal of the American College of Cardiology study found that exercise before a meal may help stem the effects of high-fat foods on blood vessel function. Walking is good for the heart and its arteries and vessels in many ways, including stemming build-up and clogging of arterial walls. Unclogged vessels and arteries keep blood circulating throughout the body, to organs and limbs.
7. Boost Mental Health by Walking
Many studies prove that exercise can improve mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Depression, a disease that afflicts 9% of the American adult population according to the Centers for Disease Control, is reduced by walking, an activity that replenishes endorphins that influence the feeling of well-being. Physical activity also boosts self-esteem and cognitive function, according to research in the National Institutes of Health.
Want more joy? Cities with good public transit and access to amenities promote happiness.
8. Walking Combats Arthritis and Strengthens Joints
Knee arthritis sufferers were able to increase the distance walked by 18% and gained nearly 40% boost in joint function after finishing an 8-week walking study. They also experienced significantly less pain and needed less medication after walking, based on research in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
9. Enjoy a Healthy Pregnancy
Pregnancy doesn’t have to mean your health decreases. Walking just half an hour every day helps pregnant women prevent back pain, swelling, constipation and other pregnancy-related irritations and health conditions, according to research by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
10. Walk for a Healthy Brain
Walking regularly reduces brain atrophy and mental decline, resulting in a 50% reduction in risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia where thinking, memory and behavior deteriorate over time. This according to Rush University Medical Center research.
Seniors, take note: Exercise, including walking, in your 70s may stop brain shrinkage, a sign of aging linked to dementia, according to Edinburgh University research.
Tools that make it easy to live a healthy life:
- Move to a more walkable neighborhood.
- Discover places and nearby amenities within walking distance.
- Find a place to live where you can walk, bike or take public transit to commute or get around.
- Advocate for better walkability in your neighborhood.
Live in a walkable neighborhood to boost your health and prevent disease. Walkability matters. We have partnered with many researchers to explore the value of walkability. Find a place to live in a walkable neighborhood on Walk Score.