• Dr. Corey Hillman

Walking and its many Benefits

Updated: Jan 26

Autumn is here! A time of cooler days and a renewed enthusiasm to get outdoors. If you are like many, the busyness (and heat) of summer has put your fitness goals on the back burner. Take heart--now is a great time to refocus your health and wellness goals and couple them with a renewed fervor for the outdoors. In this post we will explore the health benefits of walking.

We are fortunate to have an ample supply of parks, trails, and greenways in Greensboro. We have over 90 miles of trails in our area! Of the many gifts these green spaces provide, one of the most common -- and perhaps underappreciated-- benefits they provide is the space to walk. While we don’t always place high value on walking in the context of exercise, it is an essential component of our overall health. Research in the past few decades has provided fascinating insights into the complex physiological and psychological benefits of walking.

1. Walking is beneficial for your Cardiovascular system-

We have all heard that aerobic exercise has heart healthy benefits, but emerging research points to walking having a positive effect as well. The Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, which included nearly 75,000 women ages 50-69, found that those women who engaged in “vigorous” walking had a 40% reduction in cardiovascular diseases. This research echoes earlier studies looking at the link between walking and cardiovascular disease risk. In a landmark study, researchers compared the rates of cardiovascular disease amongst London transit (bus)workers. Researchers found that, “in physically active jobs [conductors] have a lower incidence of coronary heart-disease in middle age men than have men in physically inactive jobs [drivers]. “ Thus providing more support for the benefits of walking on the cardiovascular system.

2. Walking can be helpful with chronic low back pain

It is no secret that many in our community and nation are suffering from low back pain. In fact, nearly 80% of us will experience lower back pain during our lives. Many are seeking conservative treatments such as Physiotherapy as a their go to to manage theses pains.. While there are many reasons to seek treatment from a Physiotherapist , research is beginning to show that walking may help to decrease pain, disability and provide a non-pharmacological solution to complement other treatments.

3. Walking is beneficial even if you’re a “gym rat”.

Those of us who have well established routines of lifting weights, yoga, or running may view walking as of lesser importance. While these are important components of an exercise routine, emerging evidence suggests walking still has a pivotal role. Researchers at the University of Texas (Austin) have compared exciscers who lived active lifestyles (walking around 17,00 steps/day) to those exercisers who otherwise lived very sedentary lives. In the study, researchers tested triglyceride (fat) levels of both athletes after a high fat meal. Those who had a more sedentary lifestyle had higher levels of triglycerides in their blood than those who lived more active lifestyles. What is astonishing about this research is both groups still engaged in vigorous exercise sessions. This led the study authors to hypothesize that long term sitting or inactivity during the day has negative consequences to our health even if we work out. Put another way, exercising for 1-2 hours can not completely undo the effects of hours of sitting, suggesting that even gym rats can benefit from adding walking to their daily lives.

It’s no secret most of us live very sedentary lives: commuting in our car to work, eight or more hours at our desk, followed by another commute on the ride home. The challenge is so ubiquitous that many have referred to sitting as the “new smoking”. As the weather provides us with cooler days to enjoy the outdoors, I hope you feel encouraged regardless of your fitness level to take steps to incorporate walking and movement more into your daily routine.




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