The One Crucial Exercise You Need in Your Workout Routine


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. 

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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. 

Walking and Weight Loss

If you're like most exercisers though, you're also concerned about maintaining a healthy weight. Many of us exercise to counteract a sedentary lifestyle and the calorie-ridden food options that make up the modern world, both of which contribute to weight gain. 

Walking is helpful for this, too. Because it's low-impact, walking is actually what's recommended for those who are already carrying extra weight since the body will experience less wear and tear while still reaping similar weight loss benefits.  

Though there's no question that high-intensity exercise, such as running, will burn more calories, walking still burns a substantial amount. In fact, walking burns around 100 calories per mile (this number is influenced by weight, gender and age) and can help you burn fat, just like any other aerobic exercise–only with a much smaller risk of injury and zero cost. 

Adding Walking to Your Routine

You don't need to ditch all your favorite high-intensity workouts in favor of walking. In fact, you shouldn't. A healthy workout plans encourages diversity to keep the body guessing and your mind from getting bored. Instead, simply add in walking one to two days a week, and try to get outside if you can.

If you don't work out right now, consider implementing a walking regimen. The current exercise guidelines for Americans are two and a half hours per week of aerobic exercise. This translates into 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week. If you can't walk for 30 minutes at a time, start with 10-minute walks three times a day, then work your way up.

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