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Walk your way to better overall health

People turn to many different exercises and pieces of fitness equipment to get in shape and lose weight. What they may not realize is that one of the most effective health strategies requires no additional gear except a quality pair of athletic shoes. Walking is one of the easiest and most accessible activities that can improve overall health. In fact, walking is now being touted as “the closest thing we have to a wonder drug,” according to Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indeed, walking offers a host of benefits.

Helps a person maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat.

Improves cardiovascular fitness by strengthening the heart.

Improves muscle endurance.

Helps to prevent or manage conditions like stroke, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Reduces the risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 14 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

Boosts immune function to make a person less susceptible to common viruses like the cold and flu.

Eases joint pain associated with arthritis, and can even prevent osteoarthritis from developing in the first place, according to Harvard Health.

Helps tame cravings for sweets and other fattening or sugary foods.

The faster and more frequently a person walks, the greater the benefits. One also can alternate periods of leisurely walking with brisk walking as a form of interval training to burn more calories and improve cardiovascular fitness.