Walking is a fantastic way to stay in shape. While easier on your joints than running, walking still provides many health benefits. Some of these benefits include protection against heart disease, easing arthritis symptoms, and calming negative self-talk.
Beyond the ability of regular walks to reduce a person’s risk of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, this modality of exercise is extremely approachable for even beginners. Benefits from walking can start with just a few minutes of exercise a day.
The total time you spend walking can even be split up into small chunks throughout your schedule. This makes it incredibly easy to add the recommended 2.5-5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise to your calendar each week. This is an important consideration because the number one excuse for nonexercisers is a lack of available time.
Some cities are built to be pedestrian-friendly. These cities often have specially designed walking routes and may even close off entire streets or neighborhoods to motor vehicles to encourage walking. Unfortunately, many of these cities are large metropolises that have heightened levels of air pollution.
Air pollution is associated with poor cardiovascular health. The cardiovascular system is also the one which most benefits from walking and other similar endurance exercises. This means the benefits of walking might be, at least somewhat, reduced by car emissions and other pollutants.
The CANHEART study of almost 2.5 million people in Canada found that while increased levels of walking meant decrease levels of diabetes, the gap in health outcomes between walkers and non-walkers decreased in areas with higher levels of pollution.
The findings could help city planners develop healthier walking paths. This would likely include routes that avoid exposure to idling cars as much as possible. It may also mean reducing car dependency through better public transit options.
For now, scientists say, don’t skip your walk, just get as far away from traffic as possible. This way, you can earn all the benefits without any of the consequences of breathing in high levels of pollution.
The above video from TED discusses how important a city’s walkability will be moving forward, highlighting the importance of physical activity for overall health.