The One Crucial Exercise You Need in Your Workout Routine

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If you stay up-to-date on the latest health and fitness news, you can probably name the trendiest exercises of the day: high-intensity interval training (HIIT), heavy weight-lifting, boutique spin classes, kickboxing, reformer Pilates and so on. You might even dabble in some (or all) of them.  

But there's one exercise that's so simple and accessible, we tend to overlook it. That's right–we're talking about walking. 

Now stay with us here. Walking may seem like a waste of time to anyone who's used to leaving it all on the floor during an intense bootcamp class, but it actually produces a comparable number of health benefits, both physical and mental. Plus, it's low-impact, completely free and may be just what you need to take your training to the next level. 

The Benefits of Walking

Walking is one of the most studied forms of exercise, likely due to its accessibility for most of the population, and research has plenty of good things to say about it. Let's start with five of the top benefits:

Reduces blood pressure and cholesterol: Exercise in general promotes better health, and walking is no exception. Regular walking has been associated with a 7-percent reduction in risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two predictors of stroke and coronary heart disease.

Promotes better brain health: More time walking has actually been associated with greater amounts of grey matter in the brain. Grey matter is an important indicator of brain health and a protector against cognitive impairment. 

Increases longevity: Want to live longer? Start walking. Researchers have found that walking for three hours a week–that's only 25 minutes a day–is associated with an 11-percent reduced risk of premature death compared to those who do little or no physical activity. 

Improves mood: Have you ever gone on a walk "to clear your head?" There's science behind that. Not only does walking boost your mood (it's often used to treat depression), but the effects are even stronger when you're in nature. Walking in the outdoors can further prevent you from ruminating over negative experiences and emotions. 

Boosts creativity: If your best ideas always seem to come to you when you're on a walk, there's a reason for that. Walking lets your mind wander freely and actually boosts your creative output by an average of 60 percent, opening up the flow of ideas.

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