Health benefits of walking

April 2, 2024

A simple activity such as walking can provide physical and mental health benefits to the body, Dr. Brett Bentley, sports medicine physician at University Medical Center, said in a March Mini Medical School presentation.

Mini Medical School is a series of lectures provided each semester by University Medical Center health-care providers to members of UA’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).

Not getting enough physical activity can increase your risk for serious health complications, such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis, Bentley said. Lack of exercise can also affect your mental health, causing fatigue, depression and anxiety.

“Research has shown that walking can improve weight management, lower blood pressure, improve sleep quality and relieve depression and anxiety,” Bentley said. “Walking can even increase good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol.

Bentley said a simple walking routine consists of 30 to 40 minutes three to four times a week at a slow or moderate pace.

Having a pedometer or a smart watch can track your steps and create goals.

“You also want to make your walking and exercise are enjoyable,” said Bentley. “With your walking routine, you can apply that to different walking destinations, such as a mall, beach or park. Walking with a companion or friends can make it more fun and helps you stay accountable with your routine.”

Bentley encourages people to apply walking in their day-to-day life by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or when out at the grocery store parking farther away from the door.

Bentley said safety is important, too, when walking so keep hydrated, wear proper clothing for the weather and time of day, invest in proper footwear to decrease risks for stress fractures in the feet and take a walking stick to promote stability on uneven surfaces.