Walking--Benefits of Walking
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Last updated May 22, 2017, originally published October 12, 2009

By A. Lee, Contributing Columnist

Walking is not just the best overall exercise we humans can do,
as you'll see in this article, but it's also what makes us essentially
human. We humans are the only primates who get around on
two feet. All other primates walk by using both their feet and
their hands, in a kind of crouch. Why do we humans walk? How
does  walking benefit our health? Walking makes us exert
ourselves, so it good or bad for our blood pressure? And is
walking just a physical activity or does it also affect our brains?

Our bodies in fact are designed to walk. Walking puts less stress
on the joints than sitting, running, even standing. Sitting too long
causes edema(
swelling in your legs and ankles) and
hemorrhoids, running too long causes arthritis. But walking,
alone among all forms of exercise, is entirely therapeutic. It all
has to do with the design of our pelvis. Back when humans
evolved to walk upright, we developed the pelvis structure which
makes walking the most comfortable thing our bodies do. In
essence, to walk is to be human.

Here, according to medical research, are the chief health benefits
of walking:

Walking Helps You Lose Weight.  Walking is the single best
aerobic exercise for losing and
sustaining long-term weight loss.  
Researchers have found that, among the 5000 members of the
National Weight Control Registry who've lost over 70 pounds,
the overwhelming majority use walking as their main form of

Walking Lowers Blood Pressure.  According to a 2004 study
by the American College of Sports Medicine, walking just 30
minutes a day lowers blood pressure in people with
hypertension. The study found that walking at a moderate pace
for 30 minutes every day, coupled with
strength training during
the week, is the optimal exercise to reduce blood pressure.

Walking Reduces Blood Sugar.  Walking lowers blood sugar
and your risk of diabetes.
Walking just 30 to 40 minutes a day
helps to reduce blood sugar, according to a government study.
The Diabetes Prevetion Program study examined 3234 people to
discover the lifetsyle changes that most affect blood sugar. The
amount of
sugar in your blood has been linked to a numner of
diseases, including increased risk for stroke, heart disease and

What it found was that walking helps your body to use insulin
more efficiently.  Think of the path of sugar as having only 2
choices once it enters your body. It either hangs around in your
blood or it gets stored in your muscles in the form of glycogen.  

When you exercise, you essentially burn --empty out--the
inventory stock of glycogen that is stored in your muscles. The
emptying of the sugar out of your muscles just leaves more room
for the muscles to suck up extra sugar when you next eat.  If you
become sedentary, the sugar simply stays in your muscles,
making the muscle sugar(glycogen) coffers too full to take in any
extra sugar from the blood stream when you eat. So, the sugar
simply hangs around in the blood stream, leading to higher and
higher blood sugar readings.


In fact, walking is equal to or slightly more effective than running
in lowering your risk for developing diabetes. A 2013 study from
the Lawrence Berkley Life National Laboratory compared the
diabetes profiles of 33,060 runners and 15,945 walkers for 6 and
1/2 years. They discovered that running lowered the incidence of
Type 2 diabetes by 12.1% while walking decreased the incidence
by 12.3%.]

Walking Keeps Your Brain Young. A new 2010 study from
researchers at the University of Illinois  has discovered that
walking actually helps to keep your brain younger. The study
examined a group of 65 previously sedentary men and women
aged 59 to 80 and followed them for a year. On average, the
participants walked 40 minutes a day at their normal pace in the

Surprisingly, the researchers found that, compared with their
brain function at the start of the study when they were
sedentary, walking for a year improved the neural connections in
their brains, making them more
resemble the brains of 20 year-

How did walking turn the brain of an 80-year old into the brain
of a 20-year-old? Why does walking, a physical activity, help
your brain?

The answer lies in the way your brain works. As Dr. Art Kramer,
who led the study noted, "almost nothing in the brain gets done
by one area, it's more of a circuit.“These networks can become
more or less connected. In general, as we get older, they become
less connected, so we were interested in the effects of fitness on
connectivity of brain networks that show the most dysfunction
with age.”

demands that the networks of your brain work hard to
keep your arms and feet and core in balance as it moves you
forward. This strengthens the networks, and improves the ability
of your brain to process tasks.

The most surprising impact of walking occurs in the region of
your brain's network called the Default Mode Network. This
"default mode" is the passive mode network that operates when
you are just observing something or daydreaming. Scientists
have found that in people with dementia or
Alzheimer's, their
Default Mode Network declines rapidly. Have you noticed that you
or a friend has become forgetful? Has this friend become less
able to multi-task?  The culprit is probably their Default Mode
Network.  People with dementia or Alzheimer's become forgetful
and unable to multi-task.

Walking seems to reverse that.  Walking re-tunes your default
mode brain network, enabling you to multi-task better. You
remember better.  Walking seems to particularly benefit those
who are in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease rather than
those who have reached the later stage where Alzheimer's has
begun to interfere with basic bodily functions such as swallowing.

Bottom line: Walk, walk and walk some more. Walk every single
day. Demand that your body coordinate itself. Walk, walk, walk.
Research shows that you need to walk 40 minutes 3 times a
week for at least a year to see real improvements in your brain

Fast Walkers Live Longer/Why Europeans Are Thinner Than
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Sources: 2004 study by the American College of Sports Medicine

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