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Don't be shocked if your doctor offers you a prescription to go walking instead of another new drug. Considering recent research, your doctor could be right. A study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkley, Calif analyzed 33,060 runners in the National Runners’ Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers’ Health Study. They found walkers to have an added benefit despite the lower intensity. "The more the runners ran and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits. If the amount of energy expended was the same between the 2 groups, then the health benefits were comparable," said scientist Dr. Paul T. Williams. They found walking for just 21 minutes a day may reduce your risk of heart disease by 30 to 40 percent. With Americans spending millions of dollars a year on gym memberships and exercise equipment, they can save even more on costs by taking a stroll. Walking could be the wonder drug we've been looking for. Here are the reasons walking has earned its sterling reputation.

It prevents sickness.

Walking can prevent or manage various maladies, including heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association is encouraging people to start walking for at least 30 minutes a day. They found walking lowers blood sugar levels and may reduce the risk of getting diabetes. Researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) found that by taking several 10-minute walks you could lower your blood pressure. Walk before work, during lunch and after work to get the time in. You don't need much as "Short walking sessions can reduce blood pressure after each instance, so you wind up with a longer-lasting reduction,” said analyst Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D. of the ASU study.

It helps with circulation.

Walking helps circulation in the body. Since blood carries oxygen to your muscles, walking can help the muscles in the body use this more efficiently. It helps strengthen muscles and may help with joint pain. Many people suffer from claudication, a symptom of peripheral artery disease, a potentially serious but treatable circulation problem in which the vessels that supply blood flow to your legs or arms are narrowed. However, walking can help people with this condition. Muscles won't receive the extra needed oxygen "If your arteries can't expand to increase your blood flow -- this causes pain. Walking decreases atherosclerosis and improves oxygen delivery to tissues," University of Southern California's Center for Vascular Medicine found. Claudication could happen in the feet, thighs, calves or buttocks when exercising or going uphill. Before your circulation becomes serious ask your doctor about walking and how it could help you.

It helps mental health.

Overall there are an estimated 9 million American adults who suffer from stress. We are stressed about war, politics, the economy, jobs and if the bills will be paid. When people say they're going to clear their mind by taking a walk, they were onto something great. Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin always walked in the woods and found it to bring renewal. Just like them, walking can help your mood and it may be more effective than taking a prescription. We know exercise can help the mood because it releases endorphins which are the happy hormones and so does walking. You can meditate while you're walking and reflect on nature during a stroll. When you walk there will be a release of endorphins to perk you up. This helps with anxiety, depression and with insomnia.

It gives you a new perspective.

Many times people will go for a walk instead of engaging in a hostile conversation. Not only will this clear the head, but if you walk in nature, it will help settle the emotions. This time can help solve complex problems or offer insight on how to tackle an upcoming meeting or project. Your brain needs time to decompress just like the body does and walking can provide this. As Americans, we are in a trap of being busy and it's driving us insane. Being idle is not a bad notion. "It's not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets," columnist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times. No matter if you had a fight or just need to think clearer, walking has the answer.

It strengthen the bones.

Osteoporosis is a bone-weakening disease that develops gradually and makes bones so fragile that they fracture under normal use. An estimated 25 million Americans, both women and men, suffer from this disease. Because it progresses slowly, people often don't realize that they have osteoporosis until it becomes advanced. Sometimes bone loss occurs without any known cause. But walking can help the bones. It can benefit muscle strength, balance and help reduce the risks of having a fracture. Walking can reduce your risk of hip fractures by 30 percent. The Osteoporosis International found sidestepping or walking backward may actually work as well as high-impact exercise for increasing bone density. Examples of other exercises to consider are weight training, hiking, jogging, tennis and dancing.

It helps you lose weight.

The American Heart Association recommends adults 18 to 65-years-old need a moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for at least 30 minutes for 5 days per week to remain healthy and to keep their weight in check. Walking is believed to help people drop weight faster and a University of Virginia study led by Curry School of Education professor Arthur Weltman backed up this sentiment. Researchers found if you start power walking you can burn belly fat quicker. The women who participated in the study dropped 2 inches from their waistlines and lost more body fat by just power walking 3 times a week. "For obese women entering the middle and later stages of life, reducing internal abdominal fat or preventing too much of it forming is crucial," Weltman said. If power walking is too much, start walking with weights to help burn more calories and to improve muscle tone.

Walking is the answer for many people who don't like running or going to the gym. Walking can really improve the quality of life and help you manage stress and deal with depression better. Now, there's the perfect prescription for your overall health.
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