Special Report

This Is Why Walking Is the Best Exercise

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16. Boosts immune system

Want to keep away colds and the flu? Walking is a tonic for boosting your immune system. According to a study by Appalachian State University in North Carolina, a brisk walk for about 30 to 45 minutes a day can increase the number of immune system cells in your body. Dr. David Nieman of the university, who conducted the research, has studied the effects of exercise, diet, weight, gender, and education levels on people’s health at the university. In his findings he said that “regular aerobic exercise, five or more days per week for more than 20 minutes a day, rises above all other lifestyle factors in lowering sick days during the winter and fall cold seasons.”

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17. Lowers bad cholesterol

Commonly known as “bad” cholesterol, LDL stands for low-density lipoproteins. LDL is “bad” because high levels of it can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.

How exactly walking lowers “bad” cholesterol is not entirely clear, but many experts think the connection is simple — exercise, walking included, helps a person lose weight, which helps lower cholesterol. Losing just 5% of body weight can result in a significantly lower LDL levels.

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18. Lowers the risk for cancer

Walking every day can help lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer. A study of about 140,000 people, with an average age of 69, by the American Cancer Society found a link between walking at an average to brisk pace and lower risk of breast and colon cancers. Researchers concluded that really all levels of walking can reduce the mortality risk. Even people walking as little as two hours a week were less likely to die than those who engaged in no physical activity at all. A 2016 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that exercise may lower the risk of 13 types of cancer.

Walking may have an indirect effect on lowering the risk of cancer. The exercise can result in weight loss. Obesity is a major risk factor for cancer and expected to become the leading cause of the disease within just a few years, according to Prevent Cancer Foundation.

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19. Helps with digestion

An old belief was that walking immediately after eating caused fatigue and stomach discomfort. According to a study published in the International Journal of General Medicine in 2011, however, walking right after eating at a brisk pace for 30 minutes leads to more weight loss than waiting for an hour after eating before walking. Blood sugar levels surge after eating, and if people start walking as soon as possible after a meal, the spike in blood sugar level will be limited.

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20. Prevents dementia

Taking a 20-minute walk each day could reduce the risk of developing dementia by 40%, according to a research study conducted by neurologists at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Dr. Jay Van Gerpen, who helped prepare the study, said dementia is often connected with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and vascular diseases that impede the flow of blood to the brain, leading to a decline in brain tissue and memory function. Walking regularly can diminish the risk of blocked blood flow.

According to another study of dementia at the University of Pittsburgh, people who walk frequently increase the size of their hippocampus — the portion of the brain that stores new memories — by as much as 2%.

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