Some surprising ways walking can benefit your body and mind
As our exercise options get more high-tech and inventive, like smart trainers powered by artificial intelligence, the basics still do plenty to improve your overall health. And that includes taking walks.
Walking works your whole body, is good for your heart and helps alleviate stress. Want to add some simple movement to your daily routine? Here are some of the benefits walking can offer you.
Walking is good for your cardiovascular health
Walking is considered aerobic exercise, and aerobic exercise (also known as “cardio”) is great for your cardiovascular health, no matter the speed at which you take it.
Studies have shown that aerobic exercises like walking can reduce the risk of heart disease, strengthen your muscles to lower your resting heart rate and lower blood pressure.
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises walking 30 minutes a day, five to seven days a week, for cardiovascular health. You can go for a 30-minute walk once a day or break it up into three 10-minute segments and your health will benefit either way.
Walking can help alleviate stress
What benefits physical health often benefits mental health—and the same is true for walking. Walking can reduce stress and improve your mood, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
This is because walking as a form of exercise produces endorphins (chemicals that regulate emotions). Just five minutes of aerobic exercise—and, again, walking counts!—can start to lower anxiety, according to the ADAA.
If you have any kind of green space nearby, try to take advantage of it, as strolling in nature may be especially good for mental health.
One study showed that people who went on a 90-minute nature walk reported fewer negative feelings about themselves, as well as less neural activity in the parts of the brain associated with mental illness.
Getting more steps in can improve your sleep
Walking daily can also help you get a better night's rest. Exercise, like walking, boosts the sleep hormone melatonin, which can help you snooze more soundly. Taking more steps during the day also improved the quality of sleep at night among adults who were already getting seven hours of rest, according to a study published in the journal Sleep Health.
Getting outside in the morning for a walk can also improve your wakefulness and help set your circadian rhythm so you'll be more awake in the morning and sleepier toward the night.
If a nighttime walk is your preference, experts suggest you wrap it up three hours before bedtime so as not to energize yourself too late in the day, if you find you notice that effect.
Walking can aid fat loss
Walking is a type of cardio workout referred to as low-intensity steady-state, or LISS. LISS workouts are good for fat loss and can help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight. LISS exercises should be done frequently and for extended periods of time. Experts recommend walking at least 30 minutes a day at a “brisk” pace to see the most benefits.
Walking strengthens your lower body and core
Most of us take a few steps every day, so it may seem like putting one foot in front of the other takes little to no effort. But the activity actually uses a lot of muscles. Your hamstrings, glutes, quads, calves, hips and core all spring into action as you move—even the muscles that help curl your toes are used.
Going for a half-hour walk at a moderate pace on a treadmill or outside can help build strength in your lower body and core, and if you crank up the incline or walk on a hill, your legs, core and back muscles get a serious workout.
Because walking is a movement we do each day, it makes it an easy exercise to start. Trainers love recommending it because, unlike lifting weights or cycling, you don’t need much (or any) equipment or extensive training to learn how to walk properly.