Walking is often overlooked as an effective form of exercise. Sure, it’s not as intense as running. And no, it doesn’t have the same bragging rights as doing a 6 a.m. hot yoga class.
But walking has plenty of full-body benefits. It burns calories, improves heart health, and being outdoors can give you much-needed hits of vitamin D and mood-boosting endorphins in equal measure.
Here are ten reasons you should consider making walking part of your fitness routine.
1. Walking is a form of cardio
Walking is a free, low-impact exercise to improve your cardiovascular health. If you want to lose weight and start walking for weight loss, it’s OK to begin slowly.Once you’ve gotten comfortable walking longer distances, try to complete a mile or kilometer faster than the previous week and then faster than the average walker (15-20 minutes per mile and 10-12 minutes per km).
As you pick up the pace, you’ll get aerobic exercise.You can also alternate periods of brisk walking with slower walking, called intervals. These are great for cardiovascular fitness and burn more calories than regular walking.
2. Strengthens leg muscles – and more
Walking can be an excellent way to mix up your routine for those at risk of plateauing. Walking works various lower body muscle groups: your quadriceps, glutes, calves, and ankles. Adding resistance is even better.Walking uphill or increasing the incline during your treadmill workout – particularly at a 3-degree incline or higher – increases the activation of these muscle groups, especially the glutes.
You may be surprised to learn that your back muscles are getting in on the action, as they support your torso and stabilize your pelvis to help you stay upright. As a bonus, you can also activate, or engage, your core muscles while you walk by drawing the navel inwards.
3. Boosts your immune system
If recent times have taught us anything, it’s that our health is paramount. Now that the pace of life is picking up again and we’re socializing more, it’s essential to keep our immune systems iron-clad all year round.
Did you know walking for exercise could help beat the common cold? One study showed that men and women who walked 20 minutes a day, at least five days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who only exercised once a week or not at all.(1)
Regular exercise allows older people to develop more T-cells than people their age who are more sedentary.(2)
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to power-walk your way to peak health. Being consistent and moderate with exercise allows your body to recover from illness and build immunity quicker than over-exercising, and walking is a great way to achieve this.
4. It’s perfect for goal-setting
Whether you are walking for weight loss, to cover 8,000 steps a day, or aim to progress into running, walking is a great way to stay on top of your goals.
Saying you plan to “walk every day” or “walk to lose weight” isn’t always enough. The best way to achieve better health through walking is to be SMART: have specific, measurable, attainable, and time-bound goals.
For example, if your goal is to walk daily, then set a SMART goal plan:
- Specific: Walk every day
- Measurable: Use the goal feature on adidas Running and use the app to track your sessions
- Achievable/Attainable: Walk 30 minutes a day after work
- Realistic: To start, walk for 10-15 minutes each day when you get home from work. Aim to increase your duration after one month.
- Time-bound: Reach 30 minutes per session by the fourth week. Walk every evening from 6-7 pm.
As you gain confidence in your progress, reconfigure your goals over time to add a longer duration, do a certain number of steps or run a 5k. Baby steps!
5. Makes you feel good
Walking in nature helps boost your mood by increasing blood flow and blood circulation to the brain and body. When you exercise, you’re reducing levels of the body’s stress hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol.(3)
Walking is a natural stress reliever and positively affects a group of hormone-producing glands called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis is responsible for the body’s response to stress and regulates processes like digestion, your immune system, and emotions.
Studies have shown that people who take regular walks or other forms of physical exercise have better emotional health than those who do not exercise regularly.(4)
6. Improves your attention span and memory
You might ask yourself: “If walking is so great for our legs and heart, then I can just do this on a treadmill, right?” Well, you can. But you’d be missing out on a whole lot of other benefits.
Walking outdoors for 30 minutes has a more significant influence on your cognitive functions than walking in an urban environment.
Looking at a pretty landscape, hearing the birds chirp, and breathing in the fresh air can improve our attention and memory. The attention restoration theory states that the effortless act of taking in our beautiful surroundings, and the aesthetically-pleasing stimuli within them, can help restore our attention capacities.
One study found that memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after people spent an hour walking in nature.(5)
So, the next time you find yourself with mental fatigue from too much time spent looking at a computer screen or scrolling through Instagram, head outside and enjoy the stillness.
7. Walking is good for your heart
The older we get, the more conscious we are of what makes our body tick: our heart.
Ischaemic heart disease is the leading cause of death amongst adults worldwide, and we know that our diet and lifestyle affect heart health.(6) If heart disease runs in the family or is a worry for you, consider regular walking as a form of exercise.
A study looking at men and women found that just 20 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, including walking, could help ward off heart disease and heart failure later in life, particularly in men.(7)
Another study followed women aged 50-70 over 17 years. It found that women who walked at a faster pace of 3 miles per hour (4.8 km) than women who walked under 2 miles per hour (3.2 km) had a 34% less chance of developing heart disease.(8)
8. Helps extend your life
Many factors determine our life expectancy: genetics, environment, lifestyle choices, and health care access are just some examples.
The consensus is that active adults live longer than those who do little to no activity.
One 2020 study found that if every American adult (excluding those with disabilities) walked briskly or exercised for an additional 10 minutes a day, 7% of deaths annually across the country might be avoided. For adults that walked 30 minutes a day, this number rose to 17%.(9)
Even walking at a leisurely pace can produce results. A 2019 study showed that women who walked at least 4,500 steps, either intensively or just strolling, had 40% less chance of dying than those who walked around 2,700 steps during the five-year follow-up period.(10)
While it’s worth noting that COVID-19 has skewed mortality rates around the world, the bottom line is still important. Just 10 minutes of brisk walking or exercise a day can significantly impact your or a loved one’s health and prevent premature death. Since walking is a low-impact exercise, it is a healthy, safe option for older people who may suffer from joint pain.
9. Improves your coordination and balance
Over time, your balance and coordination can improve with stronger lower body muscles. For older people, this is especially important for preventing falls.
Try these balance exercises the next time you head out:
- Stretch your arms out to the side
- Keep your gaze forward and your chin parallel to the ground
- Step forward and place the heel of your foot right in front of the toe of your other foot
- Repeat with the other foot and walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe each time
- Continue for 10 to 20 steps
Heel and toe walks
- Walk for at least five minutes to warm up
- Take 10 steps with your weight mainly on your heels and your toes slightly off the ground
- Then, walk on your toes only for 10 steps, with your heels off the ground
- Walk for 10 steps
- Repeat 2-3 times – use a stick or hold onto a wall for balance if you need it!
- Do these in an open area where you can walk side-to-side with no obstacles
- Stand with your legs apart and knees slightly bent (position 1)
- Cross the left foot behind the right foot and plant it on the ground
- Move the right foot to the side, so you return to the first position
- Keeping your balance, cross the left foot in front of the right foot and plant it on the ground
- Move the right foot again and return to position 1
- Reverse the steps by moving to the left to repeat this drill
10. When you walk, you’re being kind to the environment
While there are many benefits of walking for you, it also lets our trees breathe a sigh of oxygen-rich relief.
Instead of hopping in the car to make a 2 or even 5 km journey, leave your house earlier and walk.
Here are just some of the reasons why you should choose walking over driving when possible:
- Transport contributes approximately one-quarter of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions
- The emissions from cars seep into our seas: an estimated 5% to 10% of the plastics found in the ocean come from tire dust(10)
- When you walk, you reduce noise pollution in any area and congestion on the roads
- Pedestrians, on average, are less exposed to air pollutants compared to persons traveling by car, bus, or bike(11)
- Maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat.
- Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
- Improve cardiovascular fitness.
- Strengthen your bones and muscles.
- Improve muscle endurance.
- Increase energy levels.
- Flexibility. No matter where you are, you can go take a walk. ...
- It's Free. You can literally walk anywhere. ...
- Weight Loss. When walking is paired with a healthy diet, it can promote weight loss. ...
- Lower Diabetes Risk. ...
- Live Longer. ...
- No Learning Curve. ...
- Socializing Opportunity. ...
- Reduces Heart Issues.
Walking is a form of low impact, moderate intensity exercise that has a range of health benefits and few risks. As a result, the CDC recommend that most adults aim for 10,000 steps per day . For most people, this is the equivalent of about 8 kilometers, or 5 miles.What does 30 minutes of walking do a day? ›
Just 30 minutes every day can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance. It can also reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers.Is it better to walk faster or longer? ›
In a new study, which looks at activity tracker data from 78,500 people, walking at a brisk pace for about 30 minutes a day led to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, dementia and death, compared with walking a similar number of steps but at a slower pace.How far should a 65 year old walk every day? ›
Generally, older adults in good physical shape walk somewhere between 2,000 and 9,000 steps daily. This translates into walking distances of 1 and 4-1/2 miles respectively. Increasing the walking distance by roughly a mile will produce health benefits.What happens if you walk everyday for a month? ›
7 Things That Happened When I Made Myself Go For A Walk Every Single Day For A Month. For a such simple, approachable activity, walking certainly does deliver some remarkable health benefits. Studies show that a daily brisk walk can help lower blood pressure, reduce belly fat, increase energy levels, and improve mood.Is a 20-minute walk everyday enough? ›
A brisk 20-minute walk each day could be enough to cut your risk of early death – even if you are obese, according to new research published Jan. 14. The study of more than 334,000 European men and women found that twice as many deaths may be attributable to lack of physical activity as to obesity.How long to walk a mile? ›
Most people can expect to walk a mile in 15 to 22 minutes, according to data gathered in a 2019 study spanning five decades. The average walking pace is 2.5 to 4 mph, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.How long does it take to see results from walking? ›
After 3-4 days of walking: you will notice the “better fit” or more room in your clothes! After 7 days of walking: real changes are happening! You have used body fat as energy (fat burning!) Muscles feel more toned!
An average person has a stride length of approximately 2.1 to 2.5 feet. That means that it takes over 2,000 steps to walk one mile and 10,000 steps would be almost 5 miles.How long should elderly walk daily? ›
Adults aged 65 and older need: At least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking. Or they need 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running.How many miles is a 30 minute walk? ›
If you walk briskly for 30 minutes, you should be covering 1.5-2 miles. Walking comes under the moderate-intensity exercise category, so you should aim to walk anywhere between 30-90 minutes.How many miles is walking 30 minutes a day? ›
Depending on how fast you walk, walking 30 minutes a day is roughly equivalent to walking 1.5-2 miles (2.5-3.5 kilometers).Are two 15 minute walks as good as one 30 minute walk? ›
2 Walking for several shorter periods of time that added up to 30 minutes per day has been shown to be just as effective as taking one long walk.How fast should you walk by age? ›
Average walking speed by age:
20-29 years: 3.00 mph (4.83 km/h) 30-39 years: 2.82 mph (4.54 km/h) 40-49 years: 2.82 mph (4.54 km/h) 50-59 years: 2.75 mph (4.43 km/h)
- 15 minutes per mile (4 miles per hour)
- 9 minutes per kilometre (6.4 kilometres per hour)
Typically, rest days aren't necessary for light cardio. This includes activities like leisurely walking or slow dancing. It's safe enough to do every day, unless your doctor says otherwise. But if you're doing moderate or vigorous aerobic activity, rest days are essential.What age is considered elderly? ›
Ageing, an inevitable process, is commonly measured by chronological age and, as a convention, a person aged 65 years or more is often referred to as 'elderly'.How many glasses of water should an elderly person drink a day? ›
You should aim for 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day. Here are some simple tips for making sure you reach your goal and get enough water. Sip on drinks throughout the day. Get a reusable water bottle with a straw and fill it with plain water.
They discovered common factors that lead to loss of mobility, such as older age, low physical activity, obesity, impaired strength and balance, and chronic diseases such as diabetes and arthritis.Is 1 hour walk a day enough? ›
An hour a day is also a widely recommended goal for more advanced walkers. Health organizations usually recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of walking per day, but note that increasing your walking to 60 minutes daily gives even more health benefits.How many days a week should I walk? ›
Aim to walk at least five days a week. Start out warming up with a five-minute, slower paced walk. Slow your pace to cool down during the last five minutes of your walk. Start at a pace that's comfortable for you.How many days a week should you walk for health? ›
To attain the full benefits of walking, aim to walk at least three days a week. In addition to walking, you should engage in other forms of exercise, including strength training, flexibility exercises, and balance exercises.How many miles do you walk for 20 minutes? ›
Adults walk at an average speed of 3 to 4 miles per hour, which equates roughly to 1 mile every 15 to 20 minutes.Does walking reduce belly fat? ›
Walking is a moderate-intensity exercise that can be easily incorporated into your daily life. Simply walking more often can help you lose weight and belly fat, as well as provide other excellent health benefits, including a decreased risk of disease and improved mood.How many steps is 60 minutes of walking? ›
Since cadences were only measured for 3 MET (slow) and 5 MET (fast) walks, 122 steps/min is a mid-way estimate for a 4 MET walk. This produces an estimate of 3,660 steps in 30 minutes and 7,320 steps in 60 minutes.How long do you have to walk everyday to see results? ›
If you'd like to lose a substantial amount of weight (more than 5% of your body weight), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 300 minutes of moderately intense physical activity weekly. Walking for 1 hour daily may help you meet that goal ( 3 ).What walking does to your legs? ›
Walking tones your leg and abdominal muscles – and even arm muscles if you pump them as you walk. This increases your range of motion, shifting the pressure and weight from your joints to your muscles. The majority of joint cartilage has no direct blood supply.Is 1 hour of walking a day enough? ›
An hour a day is also a widely recommended goal for more advanced walkers. Health organizations usually recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of walking per day, but note that increasing your walking to 60 minutes daily gives even more health benefits.
For most people, walking is a very gentle way to get exercise that supports the spine in five ways. Walking strengthens the muscles supporting the spine. With every stride, you strengthen the muscles in your feet, legs, hips, and torso that stabilize your spine. The aerobics of walking nourish spinal structures.How long does it take to see results from walking 3 miles a day? ›
If a person was to commit to walking 4,500 extra steps per day, or roughly 3 extra miles, they would be burning an extra 300 calories a day (at least). Burning 300 calories each day leads to a weekly deficit of 2100 calories. After a month, that's roughly 9000 cal burned, which equates to approximately 2.6 pounds lost.