April 30, 2021

Walking This Much Gives the Most Health Benefits

Walking has been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases, including cancer.

We've been deprived of many things over the past year and a half - things we often took for granted in the pre-COVID days. And there is one thing with immense health benefits that made a steep decline during the pandemic: walking.

Walking has been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases, including cancer

The feeling of dread is familiar to many who used to rush out the front door to get to work or school on time. Now, we pine for a change of scenery, socialization with others, and even the walks in between meetings or classes. Though not usually considered 'exercise,' these walks and fresh air were contributing a whole lot to the health of our minds and bodies - science backs this up. Walking has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disease, obesity, osteoporosis, and cancer, based on an article published in the Sociology of Health and Illness.
hands making heart

Research shows tracking steps motivates people to schedule more time for walking. Photo Credit.

Remember when your friend dragged you on a walk to get her 10,000 steps in? The design of walking apps and devices reenvisioned walking as a challenge to be won. Suddenly, walking was less of a humdrum chore and more of a game conquered step by step. Research shows that when we're aware of the steps we've accumulated, it begins to have value and this motivates us to keep going.
A recent study found that when participants tracked their steps, they began to feel like walking had more impact on their health and even went out of their way to schedule more time for walking. They took their dogs for extra walks, walked instead of drove to the grocery store, and walked to a co-worker's office instead of sending an email.

Take the pressure off

A 2021 Cochrane review looked at the effects of walking on high blood pressure. The review included over 5,700 adults in 22 countries that walked an average of 153 minutes per week with moderate intensity. Like stretching, the study results indicated that walking might reduce systolic blood pressure, but it may have a lower effect on diastolic blood pressure and those who are over 40 years old. Overall, the study suggests that walking for 20 to 40 minutes three to five times a week may lower blood pressure.
The Cochrane review is in line with another study published in 2019 in Scientific Reports. This study looked at the health benefits of being in nature and the duration that maximizes these benefits. As confirmed in many other studies, being in nature makes people healthy physically and mentally. They also found the most benefit in people that spent 120 minutes or more per week in natural spaces. Surprisingly, at 200 to 300 minutes, the benefits flatten or possibly decline.

There's health benefits to spending 120 minutes in nature, even if the time is split into large or small chunks.

Regardless of splitting the 120 minutes into large or small chunks, the health benefits were still there. Living close to nature also didn't matter as much. Sure, it's a lot easier to get a nature fix if there's a park next door, but researchers speculate that people are happy to travel to natural spaces.
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