For many, going on a walk in the morning can be an instant way to boost your mood. Medical facts aside, just think about it: When you walk outside, you’ll be exposed to the sunshine, and that little dose of vitamin D will help you instantly feel more awake. Not only will you get your blood pumping, but you’ll also be able to take in everything your local neighborhood (or wherever you’re walking!) has to offer.
It can also be a time when you can let go of whatever’s stressing you out and focus on what you are hoping to accomplish that day. Noticing the trees, the new coffee shop on the corner, or even the outfits of the people you come across can all help you feel present. And it doesn’t hurt to blast your favorite tunes while you do it, either.
But walking isn’t just good for your mind, it’s also good for your body. Because it’s a low-impact activity, just about anyone at any physical skill level or age can do it without training or having any prior experience. Since it’s easy on the body, many people feel like they’re not working out at all when they take a walk, but the opposite is true.
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According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can help your heart stay healthy by preventing and managing conditions like heart disease stroke. Additionally, it can even help certain individuals lose weight, according to Harvard Medical School. If you’re concerned about recent or past health issues, consult with your doctor before starting a routine walking endeavor, but if you’re up to the challenge, we asked the experts to share eight ways taking a morning walk can benefit you.
Morning Walks Can Improve Cardiovascular Health and Circulation
“An hour or so before you wake up, your body starts to get ready for the day,” says Manuel Flores, MD, who is also the dean and vice president of academics of the University of Health Sciences Antigua. At this time, “your blood pressure starts to go up as well as your pulse, and your endocrine glands start to secrete larger amounts of hormones to get your body ready, 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,” Dr. Flowers says.
Walking Can Improve the Body’s Ability to Use Oxygen and Breathe
A morning walk can be good for the soul and for your lungs. “As long as you have your doctor’s approval, morning walks are a great benefit for individuals with pulmonary disease, 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 Journal of COPD Foundation“patients who walked at least 60 minutes per day reduced their COPD re-hospitalization rate by 50 percent,” with 5,000 steps being the target objective.
Walking Positively Impacts Your Health Long-Term
There’s no limit to how walking daily can help improve your physical health. Dr. Flores recommends walking at least 150 minutes per week, and Tooley agrees, suggesting 30 minutes per day. “Daily walks help you prevent or manage various health conditions, improve cardiovascular fitness, boost your mood, reduce stress, and more, including enhancing 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 okays you for this activity, walking provides tremendous health benefits.”
Morning Walks Can Lower Stress and Boost Your Mood
Both Dr. Flores and Tooley agree that walking can help clear your mind and help boost your mood. According to a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health“respondents who took regular walks or engaged in other forms of physical exercise had better emotional health than those who did not exercise regularly.”
It Can Reduce Your Alzheimer’s Risk
“Morning walks also strengthen your muscles, clear your mind, improve mental health, and reduce risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Flowers. In fact, in a 2020 Alzheimer’s review, researchers found that “a prospective study of more than eight years showed that women who walked more had less cognitive decline during the entire study period.”
Morning Walks May Lower Your Risk of Catching 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 a simple way to do so, according to our experts. “Walking daily boosts the immune function and can reduce the risk of catching infectious diseases,” says Dr. Flowers.
Walking Can Lower Your Blood Pressure
The heart-healthy benefits of regular walking continue: Because your heart rate goes up during a walk (even if you feel like it’s not!), it can directly help lower your blood pressure, according to Dr. Flowers. Starting your day with a walk adds to the beneficial power: “Kicking your walk off in the morning shortly after you wake up gives you the opportunity to take advantage of these benefits throughout the day,” adds Tooley.
Regular Walking Means You Can 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 around 40 percent fewer sick days,” says Dr. Flowers. This means you’ll have more time for doing the things you love, instead of spending your days cooped up at home with cold meds.
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