Walking: Health Care’s Magic Bullet?

Want to improve your health? Get out and walk.

Want to reduce your health care costs? Ditto.

Signs pointing to walking’s not-so-subtle impact on our general and financial health are found everywhere we look.

Even moderate exercise, it turns out, results in significant health care savings. 

According to a 2015 study conducted by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, moderate exercisers (defined as employees who took as few as 5,000 steps per day, or the equivalent of about 38 to 75 minutes of activity) had:

• Annual healthcare costs nearly 20 percent lower than employees who did not exercise, and
• Rates of emergency room visits and inpatient hospital stays more than 50 percent lower than employees* who did not exercise.

The effect of regular exercise on the employee population was found to be one of the “best medicines” for working toward, attaining, or maintaining healthy lifestyles. Even for obese members, evidence showed those who elected not to participate in the walking program continued to have healthcare costs 23 percent to 39 percent higher than obese members who participated. 

Regular physical activity is probably as close to a magic bullet as we will come in modern medicine.
— Dr. JoAnn Manson

Walking is foundational to wellness, not only because of the health benefits of the activity itself, but because it heightens awareness for the importance of well-being in all aspects of our lives. 

When it comes to psychological health, for example, new research suggests that simply going for a leisurely walk can improve mood and boost subjective well-being, particularly for adults who are normally sedentary.

Researchers from the University of Connecticut in Mansfield found that people who engaged in physical activity demonstrated greater subjective well-being. However, the benefits of physical activity were found to vary by intensity. The study revealed that sedentary adults who increased their exercise levels to light or moderate activity demonstrated the greatest increases in subjective well-being.

Dr. JoAnn Manson, Chief of Preventive Medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, once eloquently captured walking’s significance in our pursuit of true well-being.

“Regular physical activity is probably as close to a magic bullet as we will come in modern medicine,” said Dr. Manson. “If everyone in the U.S. were to walk briskly 30 minutes a day, we could cut the incidence of many chronic diseases 30 to 40%.”


*Comparison was made between employees who were overweight and moderate exercisers, and employees who were overweight and non-exercisers.

Sources: http://storage.pardot.com/53512/39664/Onlife_Health___Impact_of_Physical_Activity_on_Claims_Costs.pdf
Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317451.php
Source: “The Juggling Act: The Healthy Boomer's Guide to Achieving Balance in Midlife” by Peggy Edwards, Miroslava Lhotsky & Judy Turner (McClelland & Stewart).