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Four Unexpected Benefits of Walking

The benefits of walking are well documented, so you probably know most of them. A daily stroll has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Walking is a free, effective weight-loss tool. It can tone muscles in your body and reduce stress. National Walking Day is taking place April 2, and if you’re still not quite motivated to lace up your sneakers and get outside, read about these four lesser-known benefits:

1.     Walking helps prevent dementia.

Physical activity has a protective effect on brain function, and regular exercise can reduce dementia risk by up to 40 percent. A group of Italian researchers suspect this is the result of increased blood flow to the brain. They enlisted 749 people suffering from memory problems and measured their moderate activities, such as walking and yard work. At the four-year follow-up, they found that those who expended the most energy walking had a 27 percent lower risk of developing dementia than the people who expended the least.

 2.     It can stave off osteoporosis.

Walking provides what’s known as a weight-bearing exercise for your lower body. One study of nurses found that walking four hours a week gave them a 41% lower risk of hip fractures, compared to walking less than an hour a week. Brisk walking is best, as it sends a strong message to bones that additional mass is needed, but you can adapt your speed to your fitness level.

 3.     Walking can get you off your meds.

Using data from the National Walkers’ Health Study, including more than 32,000 women and 8,000 men, researchers found that those who took the longest weekly walks were more likely to use less medication. Weekly accumulation of miles proved even less important than getting in one long walk. But don’t let this deter you from taking shorter walks throughout the week – just try to squeeze in one longer walk on the weekend.

 4.     Moderate strolls boost immune function.

Multiple pieces of evidence point to walking’s benefit on the immune system. A Japanese test yielded results suggesting that 7,000 steps per day was the moderate daily target for elderly people trying to improve immune function. A test on postmenopausal women showed walkers were significantly less likely to catch a cold. (Be forewarned, however, that prolonged vigorous physical activity has been shown to weaken immune systems. All the more reason to walk!)

Learn more about making small changes to live a heart healthy life style at

Find more ways to get involved in the movement from The American Heart Association here:

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