For many, going for a walk in the morning can be an instant way to lift their mood. Medical data aside, just think about it: When you’re out for a walk, you’ll be exposed to sunlight, and that little dose of vitamin D will instantly help you feel more awake. Not only will he get his blood pumping, but he’ll get to enjoy all that his local neighborhood (or wherever he’s walking!) has to offer.
It can also be a time when you can let go of what’s stressing you out and focus on what you hope to accomplish that day. Noticing the trees, the 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 listen to your favorite songs while you do it.
But walking isn’t just good for your mind, it’s also good for your body. Because it is a low-impact activity, almost anyone of any physical ability level or age can do it without prior training or experience. Since it’s easy on the body, many people feel like they’re not getting any exercise when they go for a walk, but quite the opposite.
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According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can help keep your heart healthy by preventing and managing conditions like heart disease and stroke. Plus, it can even help certain people lose weight, according to Harvard Medical School. If you’re worried about recent or past health issues, check with your doctor before starting a walking routine, but if you’re up for the challenge, we asked the experts to share eight ways morning walking can benefit you.
Morning walks can improve cardiovascular health and circulation
“An hour or so before you wake up, your body begins to prepare for the day,” says Manuel Flores, MD, who is also dean and academic vice president of Antigua University of Health Sciences. At this point, “your blood pressure begins to rise, your pulse rate begins to rise, and your endocrine glands begin to secrete increased amounts of hormones to prepare your body, including thyroid hormone (also called thyroxine),” he explains. This is where the routine of a morning walk comes in. “By walking every morning, you reduce this increase in blood pressure and heart rate, therefore 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 the lungs. “As long as you have your doctor’s approval, morning walks are a great benefit for people with lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),” says Sheri Tooley, BSRT, RRT, RRT-NPS, CPFT, AE -C, FAARC, and the 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. In fact, according to a 2016 study published in the COPD Foundation Magazine“Patients who walked at least 60 minutes per day reduced their rehospitalization rate for COPD by 50 percent,” with 5,000 steps as a goal.
Walking has a positive impact on your long-term health
There is no limit to how much walking every day 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 walking helps you prevent or manage various health conditions, improve cardiovascular fitness, improve your mood, reduce stress and more, including improving your metabolism,” says Tooley. “All of these benefits can also support your respiratory health. Heart health and lung health go hand in hand. So as long as your doctor gives you the go-ahead for this activity, walking provides tremendous health benefits.”
Morning walks can reduce stress and improve your mood
Both Dr. Flores and Tooley agree that walking can help clear your mind and improve your mood. According to a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health“Respondents who walked regularly or engaged in other forms of physical exercise had better emotional health than those who did not exercise regularly.”
May lower your risk of Alzheimer’s
“Morning walks also strengthen muscles, clear the mind, improve mental health, and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Flores. In fact, in a 2020 Alzheimer’s review, researchers found that “a prospective study over eight years showed that women who walked more had less cognitive decline throughout the study period.”
Morning walks can reduce the risk of infections, such as 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 increases immune function and can reduce the risk of contracting infectious diseases,” says Dr. Flores.
Walking can lower blood pressure
The heart-health benefits of regular walking continue: Because your heart rate increases during a walk (even if you feel like it’s not!), it can directly help lower your blood pressure, according to Dr. Flores. Starting your day with a walk adds to the beneficial power: “Starting to walk in the morning soon after you wake up gives you the opportunity to reap these benefits throughout the day,” adds Tooley.
Walking regularly means you may have fewer sick days per year
That’s right, this morning routine staple can reduce the number of sick days you have throughout the year. “Studies have shown that people who walk at least 150 minutes per week have about 40 percent fewer sick days,” says Dr. Flores. This means he’ll have more time to do the things he loves, instead of spending his days cooped up at home with cold medicine.
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