Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
5 min read
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity each week. Walking is an easy way to reach that weekly goal. It requires no special equipment and you don’t need to have a gym membership to do it!
So, how can walking help you become healthier? Read on for some of the top benefits of walking.
Studies have shown that walking for 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week can reduce coronary heart disease risk by 19%. There is also evidence that a faster walking pace will continue to lower your risk of heart disease. You can also reap more benefits by walking more frequently.
Walking is also a great aerobic exercise that benefits your lungs as well as your heart. It can also lower your blood pressure.
Recent studies have shown that those who get the recommended amount of weekly physical activity saw a reduction in cancer risks for seven types of cancer. Doing more physical activity resulted in even lower risks for these cancers. Regular walking can reduce your risk of diseases like cancer and heart disease. Studies show that people who get twice the recommended amount of activity from walking reduce their mortality risk by 20%.
Physical activity plays a large role in losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight. A brisk walk can help you burn around 150 calories more each day. If you walk faster and farther, you will burn more calories. Walking doesn’t have to be only done through formal exercise, either. Work more walking into your day to increase your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) calories. These are the calories you burn while moving throughout your day.
Walking for an hour can decrease your risk for major depression. A recent study showed a 26% decrease in the chance for depression with an increase in physical activity. Replace one hour of sitting with one hour of walking to start seeing the benefits of walking on your mood.
Walking also gets you outside, which has been linked to improved mood. Getting out in nature can reduce stress and improve focus. Walking in nature can slow down our busy brains and leave us feeling refreshed.
Walking is a low-impact form of exercise that does not put a lot of pressure on your joints. It can even reduce existing joint pain caused by arthritis. Walking lubricates the joints and strengthens the surrounding muscles to prevent injury.
Walking can prevent bone mass loss in the legs as you age. Healthy postmenopausal women who report walking 1 mile per day, have a higher whole-body bone density than those who don’t walk as far.
Daily walks provide many benefits to the body, both physically and mentally. But is it enough to only walk for exercise? According to the Department of Health and Human Services, we should be adding strength training to our walking regimens twice per week.
Plan to add exercises that strengthen all the muscles in the body. Try to do one exercise set for each area of the body (legs, arms, core, etc.) using weights or just your body weight. You should feel tired after 12-15 reps of an exercise.
When starting a walking routine, do not set your goals so high that they seem unattainable. Make realistic goals that you know you can accomplish. For example, plan three short, five-to-ten minute walks throughout your day.
Make plans with a friend to walk and catch up. You will be more likely to follow through on your walking goals if you know someone is waiting for you. Plus, walking is more fun with friends!
Going out in nature also helps you mix up your walking routes. Explore parks and trails in your area. Not only will it be more interesting, but you will get the benefit of walking on different terrains.
If you already enjoy the benefits of a daily walk, you may be looking for a way to level up your routine. Try adding incline walking by finding a hilly route or using the incline option on a treadmill. This will work different muscles in your legs and give you a more challenging workout. You can also add intervals to your normal walks. Try speeding up every five minutes for around 30 seconds. Repeat this for as long as you can to increase your cardiovascular health.
Use a pedometer or fitness tracker to compete against yourself and your friends. Tracking your steps can motivate you to walk more than you might otherwise. If you are competitive, create a weekly walking competition with friends to get you moving.
Light cardio is safe to do every day. However, if you start to feel a pain that goes beyond soreness, you might be overdoing it. Listen to your body as you walk to know if you should take it easy.
If you are new to walking, start slow and work your way up to more steps and higher intensity. Starting out doing too much can lead to injury and exhaustion.
Walking not only helps us to live longer by preventing disease, but it can boost our mood, too. The benefits of walking are numerous and should be considered when choosing a form of exercise. Walking can be done anywhere and requires no special equipment (aside from some comfortable shoes), so it’s easy to start.
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