Whether you’re just starting on your fitness journey or a regular at the gym, walking is a great way to improve and maintain good health.
Walking is a low-impact exercise that is free and requires no equipment – just walking shoes! As a low impact exercise, it’s an especially good form of physical activity for individuals with knee, ankle or back problems, or those who are overweight or obese.
Walking provides a host of benefits to your physical and mental health. Research shows that a daily walk can do everything from lower your blood pressure and chronic disease risk, to improve your brain function and mood. Plus any activity done outdoors comes with extra benefits. Just 5 minutes of exposure to the great outdoors can improve self-esteem, mood and energy levels.
It doesn’t need to be vigorous or time-intensive to provide benefits. The ultimate goal should be to get 30 minutes of moderate to brisk walking (and it can be broken into 10 minute increments), 5 days a week. If you’re just beginning a physical activity routine, start slow with 5-10 minutes and increase the length of time, intensity and speed as you get stronger.
7 Benefits To A Daily Walk
1. Aids in Weight Loss
Walking can help prevent weight gain and even help you lose weight. Walking burns calories (about 100 calories per mile). As long as you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming, you’ll lose weight. For added benefit, try walking at a brisk pace and integrate hills or inclines if possible.
2. Improve Cardiovascular Health + Reduce Chronic Disease Risk
Walking is great for heart health. Physical activity increases your heart rate and strengthens your heart. Walking for just 30 minutes a day can lower your risk for stroke by 35% and type 2 diabetes by 40%. In fact, a research study showed that brisk walking can provide the same health benefits as running.
3. Boosts Your Immune System
Walking can help ramp up your immune system and help protect you during cold and flu season. A study found that individuals who walked at least 20 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week had 43% fewer sick days than their more sedentary coworkers.
4. Promotes Better Sleep
Research has long shown that exercise improves quality of sleep and helps you fall asleep quicker. However, a recent study showed a correlation between movement and sleep quality. In essence, the more steps people accumulated over the course of a month, the better quality of sleep they experienced. So adding more movement and short walks into your day can help you sleep better at night.
5. Creates Better Brain Function
Research showed that walking (3 hours in 1 week) helped the decision-making areas of study participants’ brains function more efficiently. Walking can also improve memory function and increase creative output. A Stanford study found that creative output increased by 60% when walking. So next time you’re struggling with a work project, go for a walk! It may lead you to a solution more quickly.
6. Reduces Stress and Anxiety and Enhances Mood
A short 10 minute walk can improve your mood (and even more so if it’s outdoors). Walking modifies your nervous system in a way that reduces your feelings of anger and hostility. Walking also promotes the release of endorphins which stimulate relaxation and can improve your mood.
7. Alleviates Joint Pain
Walking protects your joints, especially the knees and hips which are the most susceptible to osteoarthritis, by strengthening the muscles that support them and improving your range of motion and mobility. Walking can also help reduce arthritic pain and can even prevent it from forming!