Walking is actually one of the best exercises
Walking is something you can do without any fuss, anytime, anywhere, just using your own two legs—no pricey gym membership needed—and the benefits are big.
“Often we believe the best workout has to be intense and strenuous,” explains Jennifer Walsh, founder of Walk with Walsh. “Our body and brain flourish when we activate our senses with a brisk walk outside.”
Just 11 minutes of walking a day can add years to your life, attests the National Institutes of Health. A study published in JAMA of more than 2,000 adults over the span of 11 years showed that walking about 7,000 steps a day lowered the risk of death by 50% to 70%.
But if you can only make it outside on the weekends? That works, too. A 2023 JAMA study shows that taking a long walk (about 8,000 steps, or approximately 4 miles) just one or two days a week helped study participants achieve cardiovascular benefits and lower mortality rates that were almost as strong as those who walked the same distance nearly every day.
Why walking is the best exercise
The benefits of walking are big: Taking a stroll regularly can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension and diabetes. It’s a good weight-bearing exercise that also counts as a cardio workout, notes Luke Pickett, a physiotherapist who has worked as head physio for the Australian Football League, the Australian Institute of Sport, Australian sporting teams, as well as director of Melbourne Physio Clinic.
But walking can be just as beneficial for its mental health boost as well as the physical ones. “This low-impact activity can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and increase energy levels, especially for new moms who need a much-needed break from the demands of caring for a newborn,” explains New York City based-psychotherapist Robi Ludwig, PsyD.
Crystal First attributes daily walking to helping quell her postpartum depression. “Being outside and having the sun shine on me and moving with purpose instead of feeling stuck at home really helped keep me from feeling depressed,” says the stay-at-home mom of four in upstate New York. “It also provided the daily exercise I felt I couldn’t get at home.”