Ready to get walking again? Doing so can be crucial for your health, not to mention helping you to take off the weight you put on during stay-at-home restrictions (the not-so-charmingly dubbed quarantine 15). For a little extra motivation, here are eight reasons to get started with regular walking — whether you choose to do so with one of our indoor walking workouts or out in the fresh air.
Add years to your life
Want to keep adding candles to that birthday cake? A major study, published this past March in JAMA, found that the more steps participants over age 40 took, the lower their mortality risk from all causes.
Taking into account factors such as the subjects’ health status, researchers discovered a 51 percent lower mortality risk for those who took 8,000 steps a day, compared with those who took 4,000. And the more the subjects walked, the greater the benefit. In fact, extending a stroll to 12,000 steps a day was linked to a 65 percent lower risk of death. Even better, a rigorous walk wasn’t required to see these benefits; low-intensity strolls appeared to be just as effective as higher-intensity power walks for the nearly 5,000 study participants.
If you think it’s too late for you to reap such benefits, know this: A study published in the International Journal of Stroke showed that those who became fit later in life cut their risk of a potentially deadly stroke in half.
Bolster your brain
It’s not a stretch to say that just a little walking (or other aerobic activity) grows your brain. Researchers have found that regular aerobic exercise appears to increase the size of the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for memory. And the benefits can be pretty immediate. A University of Maryland study of people ages 55 to 85, for instance, showed that a single session of exercise increased activation in the brain circuits associated with memory.
Getting out there regularly may even help those already experiencing memory problems. According to a Neurology study, just 35 minutes of continuous walking or stationary biking three times a week, combined with a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, improved the scores on thinking tests of subjects who had “verified cognitive concerns,” such as remembering or concentrating.
Trim those extra inches
As we get older, fat that used to primarily land on our hips and thighs can start to shift to our bellies. That spare tire is stubborn, but regular cardio sessions may reduce it. “You don’t lose a ton of weight exercising, but what you do lose tends to be centrally located,” says Tim Church, M.D., a professor of preventive medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge. “A disproportional amount of weight is lost in the abdomen through physical activity.”