One of the first Habits of Health we challenge clients to build is a daily walking habit. You can start at any level that makes sense for your current health reality, and then, over time, we gradually add more and more steps to your routine until you reach 10,000 steps a day.
Walking is a foundational Habit of Healthy Motion because it has a litany of rewards. It’s safe and accessible, doable for almost everyone even if they have not exercised in many years, and it burns calories while unlocking several benefits that are powerful but easy to underestimate.
Here are 6 reasons why walking is a wonder drug:
- Lowers your risk for depression, a reward consistent across all forms of exercise
- Reduces your need for certain medications, also a reward from all Habits of Healthy Motion but one you should talk to your healthcare provider about before making any changes
- Reduces breast cancer risk by 30% and increases survival rates by 70%
- Lowers blood pressure and prevents injury to your cardiovascular system by keeping blood vessels open and flexible
- Increases survival rates from heart attacks by 80%
- Can lower your risk of dementia by as much as 50%
Remember, walking is a part of the NEAT System and the EAT System, which means your steps should come from both your daily routine and your scheduled exercise. By finding excuses to walk more often–such as parking farther from the door or taking the stairs instead of the elevator–you can rack up hundreds of steps without it ever feeling like a workout.
And then, with just 15 to 30 minutes of scheduled exercise time, you can use a walking program to elevate your heart rate and build your fitness. Because you’re walking, you can safely control your rate of excursion and avoid the injuries that often plague well-meaning individuals who jump from the couch right into an intensely difficult workout program.
The opportunities for creating health don’t stop there, though. The accessibility of walking means that you can do it with a friend, building bonds and relationships, and you can also do it outside in nature, unlocking the wealth of physical and mental rewards that come from being out in the sun surrounded by trees.
To learn more about walking programs, turn to page 384 of Dr. A’s Habits of Health, and then lace up your favorite tennis shoes and start getting those steps!