Weight Loss challenge day #10: 5 surprising benefits of taking a stroll on National Walking Day

Today is National Walking Day! You know what that means? It means that we all (and I don't just mean those doing the Mamás Latinas Weight Loss Challenge) need to get off our behinds and take a nice, long stroll today in honor of the health holiday.

But let's face it: we shouldn't just be doing this today.

We should be making an effort to walk (and get other forms of exercise) every single day. We all know that walking can help you lose weight. It's been proven time and again that regular exercise has all kinds of fitness benefits. But did you know that there's more to the story? Walking every day (or at least a few times a week) has tremendous benefits—and some of these may surprise you.

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Read more ¿Qué más? Weight Loss Challenge Day #4: Let's get physical!

1. Walking can prevent ailments like diabetes. Since we Latinas are at a much higher risk for diabetes, this is definitely the #1 reason to put on those tennis shoes. Recent research shows that brisk walking causes a significant risk reduction in developing Type 2 diabetes. Even if you have a family history of diabetes, performing this moderate to vigorous activity actually improves insulin sensitivity, according to a British study.  

2. Walking will melt that stubborn belly fat. Although we've often heard that there's no such thing as "spot reducing" exercise, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that subjects who exercised for 45 minutes several times a week over the course of 12 months actually lost weight primarily from the abdominal area, proving that walking can help you get those 6-pack abs you've always wanted!

3. Walking improves your memory and sleep. There are plenty of mental benefits of walking. Besides just having a "break" from the stresses of the day, studies have shown that walking slows down age-related memory decline, lowers the risk of Alzheimer's, improves sleep in insomniacs, and even helps lift depression better than pills.

4. Walking reduces your risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association has a National Walking Day toolkit to help people and companies encourage walking in everyone's lives. They also point out that, since research shows poor lifestyle is a major contributor to the 1 in 3 women who are at risk for heart disease, walking is an easy way to get started in lowering your odds.

5. Walking 10,000 steps a day can turn you Japanese. Well, not exactly. But you've heard that you should walk 10,000 steps a day, right? That's roughly 5 miles and the number is based on a Japanese study that showed that, combined with a healthy diet, it's part of what makes them so fit. A University of Texas study even confirmed that 10,000 steps a day makes a huge difference!

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Do you make walking a regular part of your day? How do you keep track of how many steps you take or how far you've walked?

Image via Leonard John Matthews/flickr