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December 30, 2011 at 2:29 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Four Reasons Walking Wins When it Comes to Wellness

By Laura Hogg More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the FitChatter Blog Series

Featured on #100daysofhealthy

You're in the middle of a grueling workout. With every muscle screaming as the sweat drips down from your forehead, you work up the energy for the final lap, grunting through gritted teeth the mantra we all know by heart: "No pain, no gain!"

However, it turns out that the best workout may not be painful at all. New research suggests that when it comes to physical and mental wellness, walking may be the best medicine - and it has a near zero percent injury rate. Running, by contrast, has an injury rate of around 80%.

What?! So I don't have to slave away jogging on a treadmill? Nope, according to physiotherapist Sammy Margo. "Bodies hate jolty, aggressive movement as you get with jogging," he says. Walking allows your heart to pump in a rhythmical way, meaning your circulation is at its most efficient."

In addition to aiding in circulation, your daily stroll comes with a host of other benefits. According to experts, walking:

#1. Lifts your spirits.

The slower pace of walking (as compared to running) allows you to take in your surroundings, which has been shown to have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing. "Short bouts of moderate exercise make people feel more activated and positive than during vigorous exercise, which is stressful," says Adrian Taylor, a professor of exercise and health psychology.

#2. Tones your legs & butt.

Walking engages all the muscles in your bottom and the backs of your legs. "You can test this by standing up and taking a big step back," says fitness expert Lucy Wyndham Read. "Now stand up and lift one leg up as if you’re jogging — you’ll notice it’s not quite the same."

#3. Boosts brain health.

A 2010 study compared the brain size of two groups: one assigned to walk 40 minutes a day 3 times a week, and the other assigned to do stretching and toning. After a year, the stretching group showed  1% shrinkage in the brain's memory center; the walking group saw a 2% growth. Walking - according to Arthur Kramer, co-author of the study - stimulates neuron growth, creating a "cushion" against dementia.

#4. Counteracts damage caused by overeating.

Numerous studies have shown that taking a long walk before dinner - not after - helps restore the brain's ability to recognize feelings of fullness. It also has been shown to lower fat levels in the blood and improve the way the body metabolizes food. "If you are going to overeat at lunchtime or dinner, it would be worth considering going for a good long walk first as this at least can undo some of the damage," says researcher Peter Weissberg.

How often do you go walking?


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