Walking has often been promoted as good for us. Specifically, it has been shown to aid in weight loss, help alleviate stress and depression, and keep our knees oiled up and working properly.
But did you know that walking daily can also help decrease your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure?
According to recent research by the American Heart Association, the numbers of those developing diabetes and high blood pressure continue to rise. According to that same research, the simple act of walking can greatly reduce the risk of ever developing these health conditions in the first place.
Based on preliminary research, those in middle-age who took the most steps per day, studied over nine years, averaged a 43% lower risk of developing diabetes, and a 31% lower risk of developing high blood pressure.
Surprising to many, walking compares favorably with running, also according to the American Heart Association. Researchers, analyzing both runners and walkers, found that moderate-intensity walking compared with vigorous-intensity running resulted in a similar reduction of risk for both diabetes and high blood pressure.
Daily Walking and Diabetes
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the growth rate of diabetes continues to steadily increase. It estimates that approximately 84.1 million Americans have prediabetes already, which can lead to Type 2 diabetes in five years. Further, more men than women seem to have prediabetes.
Although a serious disease, diabetes can often be managed and prevented. One way to do so is with physical activity. Exercising, such as daily walking, on a regular basis, helps increase insulin sensitivity and secretion, which helps to prevent prediabetes from progressing to full-blown diabetes.
Daily walks, either before a meal or after, can help decrease the risk in several ways, including:
- Helps you lose weight. For those already overweight, preventing diabetes may hinge on losing weight. Every lost pound can improve your health.
- Lowers blood sugar and improves glucose control. With exercise, muscles are able to absorb blood sugar, preventing its build up in your bloodstream. This effect may only last for a limited time, however, so it’s important to walk every day.
- Boosts sensitivity to insulin. This boost is important as it will help keep blood sugar within a normal range.
Another study, this one by the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals, suggests that briskly walking for just a half-hour per day can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 30%. A study by the Black Women’s Health Study also reported similar findings of brisk walking on diabetes prevention.
Be sure to take water with you to sip along your walk. This is one more way to help your body keep from developing diabetes. Increased water consumption can lead to better control of blood sugar and also to insulin response.
Daily Walking and Blood Pressure
Daily walking is also a way to keep your blood pressure in check.
High blood pressure often is the result of rigid blood vessels. When you walk, your blood pumps faster and harder, increasing the pressure in your veins. This can help create a loosening effect, leading to more relaxed blood vessels and a lower resting blood pressure.
Daily walks can help in many ways, including:
- Gets your blood pumping Spend at least 25 minutes walking to give your heart the optimal workout.
- Lowers your stress level. Stress most often causes your body to release hormones that temporarily cause a spike in your blood pressure. Walking helps relieve the stress, leading to less blood pressure spikes.
- Reduces anxiety. Anxiety creates an impact on the heart, similar to stress. Temporary blood pressure spikes occur as your heart beats faster, and the blood vessels narrow due to the anxiety. Walking can help calm you and relieve your anxiety.
- Helps maintain a healthy weight. Healthy weight is imperative for good cardiovascular health. Obesity and high blood pressure often go hand in hand, and daily walking can put you on the path to losing weight and also to maintaining a healthy weight.
Get Started with Daily Walking
Developing the habit of walking is crucial, more so than the intensity of your walks.
If you have been inactive, start out slow, allowing your body to adapt. Within about 3-4 weeks, your body will be ready to take on more brisk walking and longer durations.
Here are additional ways to get more walking into your day:
- Schedule walks with a friend or family member, and catch up.
- Walk your dog several times a day.
- Whenever the opportunity arises, take the stairs.
- Park far out from store and office entrances and walk in.
Walking is an activity almost anyone can easily integrate into their life. Let the knowledge that each step is keeping you away from developing diabetes and high blood pressure provide inspiration to keep you moving. Your body will thank you for it.