GET HEALTHY: 5 Great Reasons to Walk

The psychological power of walking can’t be beat, including stress reduction and increased self-esteem!

Walking offers some surprising psychological benefits. If you’ve ever gone out for a walk in a huff and come back feeling more calm and collected, you know firsthand that walking can help reduce stress. Studies confirm that walking benefits your mood – and may even ward off depression as well as an antidepressant does! Walking may give you a mood boost by releasing your body’s natural happy drugs – endorphins. And if you always tell someone about your walk after you’re done (do it!), you’ll be full of pride at your accomplishment, which helps increase your self-esteem.

You can lose weight by walking just 30 minutes a day. All you have to do is skip one TV show!

Walking is one of the best exercises for losing weight – it’s relatively easy to do (and easy on the joints), it’s free and you have to do it every day anyway! To start walking for fitness, try to begin with a 20-minute walk every day. If that’s too much, start smaller. But do set a goal of building to 30 minutes a day, every day. In a 12-week study of significantly overweight women, those who walked for 30 minutes, five days a week, lost weight at a rate similar to women who walked twice as long – 60 minutes, five days a week. Once you’ve built up strength and stamina, you can increase your pace and lengthen your walks for greater cardiovascular benefits.

Why should you become a regular walker? Lower blood pressure, better sleep and more energy, to name just a few reasons.

Regular walkers have fewer heart attacks and strokes, lower blood pressure and higher levels of HDL (healthy cholesterol) than non-exercisers. And the reason is simple: Daily physical activity – including walking –c an lower blood pressure and LDL (lousy cholesterol), decrease the risk of many cancers and improve immune system function. Plus, it improves quality of sleep and keeps your energized. Yet another amazing perk: For every hour a person walks, she adds an hour to her life!

Get motivated and have an easier, more fun walk. All you need is a pedometer and a pal.

Tracking your steps with a pedometer is key to walking success, says Michael F. Roizen, M.D., the Cleveland Clinic’s chief wellness officer and co-author of the audiobook YOU: On a Walk. People who love t heir pedometers logged a reported 2,000 more steps per day! There’s a way to make your workout feel easier too. Simply ask someone to join you. With a walking buddy, you’re bound to enjoy your workout more – and feel it less. A study of university crew team members showed that when they did indoor rowing workouts in synchrony, the experienced less pain.

Can’t resist that snack craving? Chocoholics experience a major dip in cravings during and after a 15-minute walk.

Why would you want to avoid chocolate? While dark chocolate (with at least 70% cocoa) is good for your heart, too much chocolate overcomes the good. And cravings in general are usually bad news for people trying to lose weight. Ninety-seven percent of women and 68 percent of men experience food cravings, and craved-for foods tend to be calorie-dense, fatty or sugary foods, with chocolate being the most commonly reported. Walking reduces cravings for nicotine and other drugs. More recent findings show that it can also curtail a hankering for chocolate, both during the walk and for about 10 minutes afterward. Says Professor Adrian Taylor of the University of Exeter, the scientist behind the study, the findings suggest that walking helps people lose weight by curbing cravings for sugary snacks.

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