5 best health benefits of walking, according to science
Want to stress less, sleep better, and possibly live longer? Lace up your sneakers, step outside and go for a walk. Rinse and repeat 20 minutes daily to reap the most benefits from this super simple form of exercise.
"The mental and physical health benefits of walking are endless," says Christine Torde, CPT of Body Space Fitness in Manhattan. "The best part is that it's free to do, doesn't require any special skills or equipment, and is easy to fit into a daily routine."
Need some extra motivation to add more steps to your day? Read on to learn about some of the best health benefits of walking, according to recent research.
It can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Walking burns calories and can help maintain muscle mass. So it makes sense that it can play a role in weight management. One International Journal of Obesity study found that those who took 15,000 or more steps per day tended to have a smaller waist circumference and a lower body mass index (BMI) compared to those who were more sedentary.
Walking 15,000 steps will take the average person about 2 hours. To make it happen, consider scattering your steps throughout your day. Maybe you take an hour-long walk before work and then scatter shorter bouts later on.
If you don't have the time to hit the 15,000 mark, try to get more weight maintenance benefits from the walking you can do. You can do this by planning a route that includes hills. Or adding in a few light jogging intervals.
It can help manage chronic conditions
If your doctor has told you that you have an increased risk for chronic conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, consider making walks part of your daily routine.
Using data from the National Walkers' Health study, researchers found that taking regular strolls reduced the risk of these conditions by 7.7%, 7%, and 12.3%, respectively.
Walking can also help if you already have chronic health issues. The American Heart Association advises walking at least 20 minutes a day, five to seven days a week, to maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
It can help you de-stress
After a long, stressful day, going for a stroll can help you get into relaxation mode. Since it increases blood flow and blood circulation to the body and brain, walking helps improve your mood. In fact, just 10 minutes of walking can have mood-boosting benefits, according to one University of Mississippi study.
To get more bang for your buck, head to a woodsy walking trail or a park to log your steps. Research shows that walking in nature can improve your mental state.
Recruiting a friend to tag along can also help you get more stress-busting benefits from your walk. Having a bit of social interaction can make you feel connected to others, which can make you feel happier audiobook on walks," says Torde. "Maybe something that will make you laugh or dance!"
It supports your immune system
Maintaining a healthy immune system is top of mind for everyone these days, and walking seems to help a bit. One small study, for example, found that walking for 30 minutes causes a temporary boost in virus-attacking white blood cells.
Additional research supports this finding. A British Journal of Sports Medicine study tracked 1,000 adults during flu season and found that those who walked for 30 to 45 minutes a day had 43 percent fewer sick days than their sedentary counterparts. They also tended to have relatively mild symptoms if they did get sick.
It may even extend your life
Since chronic stress and chronic health conditions can all increase your risk of premature death, it should be no surprise that controlling these factors may help to extend your life.
One review of 14 walking studies (including data from 280,000 people!) found that walking about three hours per week was associated with an 11 percent reduced risk of death from all causes compared with those who did little or no activity.
Don't have three hours per week to commit to walking? A British Journal of Sports Medicine study found that those who do just 10 to 59 minutes of moderate exercise (like brisk walking) per week had an 18% lower risk of death during the study follow-up period than those who were inactive.