One of the most powerful ways to maintain a healthy weight, stay strong, and live longer is so shockingly simple, even a toddler can do it. The health benefits of walking are endless, and experts agree by adding walking to your routine, you can truly improve your physical and mental health.
Walking is simple enough that nearly any able-bodied person can do it. “It has tremendous benefits, from supporting a healthy immune system to boosting your metabolism to strengthening your joints, muscles, and bones—not to mention it’s amazing for stress relief and enjoying a little ‘me time,’” Here’s what else you can expect when you start walking for just a half-hour—that’s less time than it takes to listen to one music album!—most days of the week.
1. Walking will improve your mood.
A glass of wine or a square (or three) of dark chocolate can blunt the edge of a rough day—but going for a walk is a zero-calorie strategy that offers the same perk. In fact, research shows that just 10 minutes of walking can lift your spirits. Other recent research found walking during the COVID-19 pandemic significantly improved people’s moods. Plus, The effect may be amplified even more if you take a stroll through some greenery.
Finally, when you make your walks social—you stride with, say, your partner, a neighbour, or a good friend—that interaction helps you feel connected, which can make you feel happier.
2. It will help you burn calories.
A brisk 20-minute walk should take you roughly one mile and require you to walk somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 steps, resulting in a calorie burn of roughly 90 to 110 calories. (Every walk, know that you’re essentially burning the equivalent of a bag of Wakers’s potato chips!) By making sure that you’ll walking briskly, your heart will kick into gear to increase your blood flow to your muscles, and you’ll maximize your calorie burn. Over time, the resulting benefits will include better cardiovascular health, better cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and less inflammation.
3. Walking can reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
The Diabetes Association recommends walking to lower blood sugar levels and your overall risk for diabetes. Some research even shows that for every 1,000 daily steps you take, you could lower your systolic blood pressure by .45 points. That means if you clock in 10,000 daily steps, your systolic blood pressure is likely to be 2.25 points lower than someone else who walks only 5,000 daily steps.
One of the most cited studies on walking and health found that those who walked enough to meet physical activity guidelines had a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular events (like a heart attack or stroke) compared with those who did not walk regularly.
4. It can even help you live longer.
A 2015 study found that a brisk 20-minute walk every day could reduce your risk of death by upwards of 30%. Among the participants of the study, those who lived otherwise sedentary lives and simply adopted a short daily walk experienced the most dramatic benefit of all of the groups studied. “The greatest reductions in all-cause mortality risk were observed between the inactive and the moderately inactive groups across levels of general and abdominal adiposity,” conclude the researchers, “which suggests that efforts to encourage even small increases in activity in inactive individuals may be of public health benefit.”
In other words, simply getting off the couch for a short walk has a major impact on your lifespan.
5. Walking boosts brainpower.
The research here is quickly growing. In one study, brain scans of people who walked briskly for one hour three times a week showed the decision-making areas of their brains worked more efficiently than people who attended education seminars instead. Other research shows physical exercise, like walking, can improve brain function in older women. Experts think these benefits could be due in part to increased blood flow to the brain that occurs with exercise.
6. It can help alleviate joint pain.
Contrary to what you might think, pounding pavement can help improve your range of motion and mobility because walking increases blood flow to tense areas and helps strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints.
In fact, research shows that walking for at least 10 minutes a day—or about an hour every week—can stave off disability and arthritis pain in older adults. A 2019 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine followed 1,564 adults older than 49 with lower-body joint pain. Participants who walked for an hour each week were more likely to remain disability-free four years later. An additional report found that walking was a safe, inexpensive, and convenient physical activity for those with arthritis of all fitness levels.
7. Walking can even delay the onset of varicose veins.
As you age, your risk of varicose veins increases. However, walking is a proven way to prevent them from developing.
“The venous system includes a circulatory section known as ‘the second heart,’ which is formed by muscles, veins, and valves located in our calf and foot,” “This system works to push blood back up to the heart and lungs—and walking strengthens this secondary circulatory system by strengthening and preserving leg muscle, which boosts healthy blood flow.”
If you already suffer from varicose veins, daily walking can help ease related swelling and restlessness in your legs, says Dr. Navarro. “Also, if you are genetically predisposed to have varicose and/or spider veins, walking daily can help delay the onset.”
8. It may stimulate your digestive system.
If you currently praise coffee for keeping your digestive system going strong, get ready to start thanking your morning walk instead. That’s because a regular walking routine can greatly improve your bowel movements.
9. Walking enhances creativity.
Whether you’re feeling stuck at work or you’ve been searching for a solution to a tricky problem, research shows it’s a good idea to get moving: According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition, going for a walk can spark creativity. “Researchers administered creative-thinking tests to subjects while seated and while walking and found that the walkers thought more creatively than the sitters,” says Dr. Jampolis.
10. It can also improve your sleep.
If you work out regularly, you’ll sleep better at night. That’s because sleep naturally boosts the effects of melatonin, the sleep hormone. A 2019 study from Sleep found that postmenopausal women who do light to moderate-intensity physical activity snooze better at night than those who are sedentary. Another recent study found healthy adults who walked daily had a significant positive impact on sleep quality and length of sleep. Walking also helps reduce pain and stress, which can cause sleep disturbances.
11. Walking will kickstart your immune system.
These days we’re all looking for ways to improve our immunity, and walking seems to be a smart strategy. Research shows that moderate-intensity exercise—and walking in particular—ramps up our immune system. It increases the number of immune cells that attack pathogens in our body, which lowers our risk of becoming seriously ill from infectious diseases. Not only that, if you do get sick, research has found that people who walk more spend less time in the hospital. One study even found those who walked regularly could reduce their risk of dying from pneumonia compared to those who don’t exercise regularly.
12. Last but not least, other goals will seem more reachable when you have a walking routine.
When you become a regular walker, you will have established a regular routine—and when you have a routine, you are more likely to continue with the activity and take on new healthy behaviors. “Our bodies are not meant to be sedentary all day. Any type of movement is better than no movement, and being able to find a type of movement best suited for your age and fitness level is super important so you feel empowered and motivated to stick with it,”
“Walking for older individuals is a great gateway exercise to get your muscles moving and your heart elevated. You can also speed it up to more of a speed walk to increase your heart rate.”
Plus, walking can help you believe in yourself and your health goals. Recent research found of nearly 5,000 adults interviewed, those who walked regularly had higher health perceptions and were more likely to have better mental health.
So what’s stopping you? Bums off seats and get moving!
Sign up to one of our packages to further benefit your health and wellbeing.