Walking is one of the simplest cardiovascular activities and can be an essential piece of the puzzle missing in your weight loss and fitness journey.
In this article, we will provide in-depth knowledge of Walking and its benefits with the help of several types of research. Through systematic meta-analysis (as mentioned here), we have summarised how walking can change the dynamics of your overall health while keeping body fat in check.
1) Helps in Weight loss
Walking is the easiest way to burn calories and keep extra pounds at bay, depending on your current weight.
A paper published in ‘Harvard Health Publishing’ shows a person weighing 70 kg burns 159 calories (walking at 6.4km/hr). (StudyH)
Of course, the more you walk and the quicker your pace, the more calories you’ll burn.
The best thing about walking is that we don’t need any equipment or fancy clothes and a special place for it. Taking care of the daily step count with a quantified diet can help us achieve our target weight.
Research done by Richardson and colleagues confirms “The more you walk… The more you burn calories. (Study A)
2) It helps us live longer
Everyone wants to enjoy a long healthy life, and walking can be a way to achieve it. A meta-analysis done by Ahmed Jayedi and colleagues showed walking 1000 steps per day is associated with a 12% lower mortality rate. Even a modest increase in steps per day may be associated with a lower risk of death (Study B)
3) Improves VO2 max and helps reduce body fat percentage.
VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume or utilize during intense physical activity. V̇O2 max is an indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness.
Research done by Murphy and colleagues, which included 24 randomized control trials where walking was the only intervention, showed a significant reduction in weight and body fat percentage and an increase in VO2 max. (Study C)
4) Improves Blood Pressure
Walking helps in maintaining diastolic and systolic blood pressure. Simply put, it takes care of your heart and the blood pumping. A systemic medic review by Lee and colleagues- “Effect of walking intervention on Blood pressure control”, showed walking could help if you have high blood pressure.
When we walk, contracting muscles help pump blood back to the heart, reducing blood vessel stiffness and improving blood flow. This causes a decline in the blood volume being pumped by the heart, and our BP drops.
In this study, 27 controlled trials were included, and 9 of the 27 found an effect of walking on controlling blood pressure. (Study D)
Another study by Wheeler and Colleagues found 30 minutes of walking can be as effective as BP medication (for lowering it) for the rest of the day. (StudyG)
5) It increases NEAT
Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis means the calories burnt, other than sleeping, eating, and structured exercises. It is 10-20% of the total calories burnt daily. NEAT burns more calories overall than cardio for fat loss.
6) Helps control depression and anxiety
Mental health is as important as our physical health. Depression and Anxiety have been common ailments almost every other person is fighting with either openly or discreetly.
A systematic review and meta-analysis by Roma Robertson and Margaret Maxwell in “Walking for depression or depressive symptoms” found that walking more tends to have a beneficial effect on depression and depressive symptoms. (Study E)
7) Reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases
It is a well-established fact that a sedentary lifestyle will eventually lead to cardiovascular ailments.
In a systematic review( Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits ? ) by Hanson and Jones with adult outdoor walking groups, just strolling through the park for 30 minutes or an hour(the study lasted for a year or less) reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 30 %. This study also provided evidence to conclude that walking decreases systolic and diastolic blood pressure, resting heart rate, body fat percentage, body mass index, total cholesterol, depression scores on the depression inventory, and increased VO2 max. (Study F)
A study by the American Cancer Society showed a 14% lower risk of breast cancer in women who walked seven or more hours a week than those who walked for three to four hours per week.
As stated above, walking has myriad benefits. Now, all we have to do is go out and take a walk to stay in shape, live healthily and look fantastic.