Walking has such significant health benefits that the American Heart Association calls it “…the simplest ways to get active and stay active.”

And the health benefits of walking are not just physical. Exercise can be a vital part of treating illness. Studies have shown that exercise can help improve the symptoms of common mental disorders like depression and anxiety.

So, skip the elevator in the parking deck. Take a turn around the block mid-day. And when you get home, turn off the TV for 10 minutes, lace up your sneakers, and take yourself out the front door for a stroll around the neighborhood. Glowingly good health is just a short walk away.

9 Good Reasons to Start Walking

1. Have a Happy Heart

Studies show that the health benefits of walking include decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Contrary to popular belief, and lucky for those of us who don’t imagine a marathon in our futures, walking works just as well as running when it comes to heart health.

2. Boost Your Mood

There are mental health benefits to walking. It not only improves your overall mental health, it can make an immediate difference in mood. An Australian study found that “employees who took a 30-minute walk at lunchtime felt more enthusiastic and more relaxed in the afternoon” than those who simply sat and stewed.

3. Get Creative

Have you been waiting for inspiration to come to you? Try walking to it instead. Taking a short walk each day could get the creative juices flowing, according to a Stanford University study. Researchers found that “walking boosts creative ideation in real time and shortly after.”

4. Keep the Weight Off

Carrying extra weight is a risk factor for all sorts of health problems, including cardiovascular disease. Shedding even a few extra pounds can be very good for your health, and walking is one way to do it.

5. Stay Sharp

The next time you need to do some mental arithmetic, take a walk. Research shows an association between improved cognitive function and physical exercise, and there are even studies that suggest walking decreases the risk of dementia. While this area of study is still ongoing, the preliminary research is positive; current studies are examining the role of walking in lowering the risk of even more insidious cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Get Better at Being Together

What’s one simple way to increase intimacy in your romantic relationship? Walk together. Taking a walk gives you an opportunity to connect by talking about your days, or by simply holding hands. And walking with your spouse will keep him or her healthier, too; research shows that couples who work out together are more likely to keep working out after a few years than those who do so separately.

7. Be Mindful

Psychology Today describes mindfulness as a state of “active, open attention to the present.” When’s the last time you really stopped to smell the roses? Seen a sunset lately? A walk around the neighborhood or in the local park gives you the chance to do just that. Not only does mindfully observing your environment and offer many health benefits, it’s also a safety precaution. If you know your environment well, you’re in a better position to know when something may be amiss.

8. Get Your Vitamins

Sunlight boosts your levels of vitamin D, a nutrient that’s difficult to get from food but is produced naturally in the body in response to sunlight. This basic building block is necessary for everything from bone growth to happiness. When the weather’s nice, don’t miss the chance to take a walk outside and improve your health with a double dose.

9. Have Fun!

If you don’t think of a simple walk as fun, find ways to spice it up. Look around for the funniest street scene you can find. Play chicken with a squirrel. Kick leaves up into a whirlwind or take a tip from your dog and chase some birds. Infuse your day with the simple joy of living. The mental and health benefits of walking will change your life.

While you’re out there kicking up your heels, don’t forget that another key component to good health is a good healthcare plan. Whether you’re in the market for single or family insurance, dental or Medicare Part D, HealthMarkets can help you find the plan that’s right for your needs.

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