For many, a morning walk can be an instant way to boost your mood. Medical facts aside, think about it: when you go outside you’re getting exposure to the sun, and that small dose of vitamin D will help you feel more alert right away. Not only will you get your blood pumping, you’ll be able to take in everything your neighborhood (or wherever you’re walking!) has to offer.
It can also be a time when you can let go of what has been stressing you out and focus on what you want to achieve that day. The trees, that new coffee shop on the corner, or even the outfits of the people you meet can help you feel present. And it doesn’t hurt to play your favorite music while you’re at it.
But hiking is not only good for the mind, it is also good for the body. Because it is a low-impact activity, almost anyone, regardless of ability or age, can do it without training or previous experience. Because it’s easy on the body, many people feel like walking doesn’t exercise them at all, but the opposite is true.
According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can help your heart stay healthy by preventing and treating conditions like heart disease and stroke. What’s more, according to Harvard Medical School, it may even help certain people lose weight. If you are concerned about any current or past health conditions, consult your doctor before beginning a routine walk. But if you’re up for the challenge, we asked the experts to bring you eight ways a morning walk can help you get the most from it.
Morning walks can improve cardiovascular health and circulation
“About an hour before you wake up, your body is preparing for the day,” says Manuel Flores, MD, who is also the dean and vice president of academics at the University of Health Sciences Antigua. At this point, “your blood pressure and heart rate begin to increase, and your endocrine glands begin secreting greater amounts of hormones to prime your body, including thyroid hormone (also called thyroxine),” he explains. This is where the routine of a morning walk comes into play. “By walking each morning, you reduce this increase in blood pressure and heart rate, thereby improving your cardiovascular health,” says Dr. Flores.
Walking can improve the body’s ability to use oxygen and breathe
A morning walk can be good for the soul and lungs. “As long as you have your doctor’s approval, morning walks are a huge benefit for people with lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),” says Sheri Tooley, BSRT, RRT, RRT-NPS, CPFT, AE-C, FAARC, and 2021- 2022 President and CEO of the American Association for Respiratory Care. “Walking is a low-impact activity and can improve the body’s ability to use oxygen,” she adds. According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the COPD Foundation“Patients who walked at least 60 minutes a day reduced their COPD readmission rate by 50 percent,” with 5,000 steps being the target.
Walking has a long-term positive effect on your health
There is no limit to how daily walking can help improve your physical health. dr Flores recommends walking at least 150 minutes a week, and Tooley agrees, suggesting 30 minutes a day. “Daily walks help you prevent or manage various health conditions, improve cardiovascular fitness, improve your mood, reduce stress, and more, including improving your metabolism,” says Tooley. “These benefits can all support your respiratory health as well. Heart health and lung health go hand in hand. So as long as your doctor approves you for this activity, there are tremendous health benefits to walking.”
Morning walks can reduce stress and improve your mood
Both Dr. Both Flores and Tooley agree that walking can help clear your mind and improve your mood. According to a 2020 study published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health“Respondents who took regular walks or were otherwise physically active had better emotional health than those who did not exercise regularly.”
It may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s
“Morning walks also strengthen your muscles, clear your mind, improve mental health, and reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Flores. In fact, in a 2020 Alzheimer’s report, researchers found that “a prospective study spanning more than eight years showed that women who walked more had less cognitive decline throughout the study period.”
Morning walks can reduce your risk of infections like COVID-19
We all want to make sure we’re making healthy choices to combat the ever-present threat of infections like COVID-19, and walking is an easy way to do that, according to our experts. “Daily walking boosts immune function and may reduce the risk of developing infectious diseases,” says Dr. Flores.
Walking can lower your blood pressure
The heart-healthy benefits of regular walking go further: Because your heart rate increases during a walk (even if you feel like it doesn’t!), it can, according to Dr. Flores directly help lower your blood pressure. Start your day with a walk to increase beneficial power: “Starting a walk shortly after waking up in the morning gives you an opportunity to reap those benefits throughout the day,” adds Tooley.
Regular walking means you can have fewer sick days per year
That’s right — this morning routine can reduce the number of sick days you have throughout the year. “Studies have shown that people who walk at least 150 minutes a week have around 40 percent fewer sick days,” says Dr. Flores. That means you’ll have more time to do the things you love instead of spending your days at home on cold medication.
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