Your body is designed to move frequently and walk. The mortality rate attributable to chronic physical inactivity is similar to that attributable to smoking. Sitting too long increases your risk of death from virtually any health condition: from type 2 diabetes and heart disease to cancer and death from all causes. Sitting more than eight hours a day, for example, is associated with a 90% increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
Although walking is often underestimated, you can reap great benefits simply. Walking may not boost your cardiovascular fitness or muscle strength the way other more intense exercises do, but it does provide other important benefits.
One study has shown, for example, that walking at least 3 km a day can halve your risk of hospitalization from a lung disease such as COPD. Another study showed that daily walking reduces the risk of stroke in men over 60.
Walking for at least an hour or two, at any pace, also cuts stroke risk by a third in men. Walking for three hours a day reduces the risk by two-thirds. Older people and those with chronic conditions that prevent them from engaging in vigorous physical activity should also strive to move more.
However, when it comes to fitness, walking will only help you get in good shape if you start at a very low level.
Taking a walk during your lunch break can have a significant impact on your mood and help reduce work-related stress, for example. Walking has also been shown to improve the quality of life of depressed middle-aged women.
Women doing at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity or just over 3.25 hours of walking per week reported feeling more energetic and more social at the three-year follow-up appointment. They also reported feeling less pain.
How to take 10,000 steps a day
Taking 10,000 steps per day means that you have walked approximately 9 km. Many people fall far short of this goal. For many people, taking 10,000 steps in a day takes a really thoughtful effort to move more, so here are some tips:
You can walk an hour in the early morning, 30 minutes during your lunch break and an hour in the evening. Or you can also choose to do shorter walks, lasting about twenty minutes, spread over the day.
Research even shows that getting up and walking for two minutes every hour can increase your lifespan by 33% compared to people who don’t. Part of what makes the 10,000 steps per day goal so important is that it requires you to get out of your chair.
You can try, for example:
- – To walk when you are on the phone (use a wired headset or the speakerphone function of your phone)
- – To take a few steps at the foot of your office building before entering it, and a few steps in the evening when leaving
- – To take a walk in the evening with your family, with your spouse and your children, to discuss your respective days
- – To have a walking buddy, like a neighbor or even your dog, to stay motivated
Walking barefoot, the little healthier
If you have the opportunity to walk in a natural area, such as a lawn, or on the beach, take the opportunity to take off your shoes.
Walking barefoot on sand or grass adds benefits that go beyond walking, as it allows your body to absorb free electrons from the earth through the soles of your feet, this practice is called grounding or hearthing. These electrons exhibit powerful antioxidant effects that can protect your body from inflammation, and its health effects.