Despite being low-impact, walking is considered a moderately intense aerobic activity and an effective way to kick start your metabolism.
According to the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, walking helps reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases. In fact, walking (at speeds equal to or greater than 8 km/h) expends more energy than jogging at the same speed.
It is advised to walk at a pace that slightly increases your heart rate. You should feel a little out of breath but not completely. Set a goal of 150 minutes of this kind of walking every week, spread out across several days (or about 30 minutes, five days a week).
It’s acceptable to divide it up into even more manageable portions throughout the day. Take three 10-minute walks, for instance, throughout the day.
Even while walking is a fantastic all-body workout, it’s still vital to have rest days. It is advised to perform challenging walking workouts no more than five days a week to minimize the risk of injury. Rest days, though, don’t necessarily entail complete inactivity. Everyday light to moderate intensity walking is recommended because it is good for your health to get your steps in.
There have been numerous studies on the different advantages you might gain from participating in a walking program. These benefits range from a reduced risk for many diseases to social advantages, and improvements in mental health.
1. Improved Cardiorespiratory Health
Regular walking will strengthen your heart and lower your cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, and lowering your total cholesterol levels by 10% can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by over one-third. You can accomplish it by walking.
A research review published in Current Opinions in Cardiology found that walking can play an important role in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease in younger, middle, and older men and women, in both healthy and patient populations.
In addition, a 2021 Cochrane review of 73 trials concluded that walking may also help decrease blood pressure — another risk factor for heart disease — if done three to five times per week for 20 to 40 minutes each time, over the course of three months.
In another study involving 529 participants with high blood pressure, researchers found that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were reduced after a 6-month program of supervised walking. The greatest improvements were seen in those who had higher blood pressure at the beginning of the study.
2. Walking Can Boost Bone Strength
Regular walking strengthens bones by improving the lubrication between joints and strengthening and toning your muscles.
One reason that walking is particularly good for your bones is that is it a weight-bearing activity. Weight-bearing exercise forces you to work against gravity providing a level of resistance that is good for your bones.
The Arthritis Foundation states that if you are overweight or have arthritis, walking consistently is very beneficial.
It is suggested that you combine walking with a strength-training routine for the most advantages to your bones.
3. Healthy Weight Loss and Maintenance
You don’t necessarily need to engage in a rigorous exercise program if you want to lose weight (unless, of course, that’s your preferred kind of exercise).
In a study of adults whose weights were considered overweight or obese, those who consumed a calorie-reduced diet and walked for 2.5 hours per week for 12 weeks reduced fasting insulin levels and had greater fat loss, compared with calorie restriction alone, according to research published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2017.
Some studies have shown that if you are overweight or obese and you are following a calorie-restricted diet to lose weight, walking can make weight loss more effective.
4. Decreased Stress and Better Mood
It is suggested that one great way to improve your mood and decrease your stress levels is to participate in walking. You can also participate in other activities as well, including tai chi, yoga, biking, or dancing.
If you walk outside, you might also gain mental benefits. Being outside is considered a restorative environment by mental health experts. It may help you to reduce stress, restore mental fatigue, improve mood, boost self-esteem, and elevate your perceived health.
Getting up and moving helps you shake off feelings of low energy, which can contribute to an overall sense of feeling down.
5. Walking May Lengthen Your Life
Being active benefits nearly all parts of the body, such as the brain, muscles, bones, cardiovascular system, kidneys, and lungs.
In a study of more than 2,000 adults, those who hoofed it for least 7,000 steps per day had a 50 to 70 percent lower risk of dying (from any cause) by the end of the 11-year study period, compared with those who took fewer steps, according to research published in JAMA Network Open in 2021. The researchers controlled for several behavioral and lifestyle factors, including age, smoking history, body weight, alcohol intake, and diet, as well as health markers like cholesterol levels, fasting glucose, blood pressure, some medication usage, and more.
Other studies have found a link between regular physical activity and increased life expectancy. But researchers almost always note that confounders may influence the relationship.
Anyone can improve their health with walking simply by increasing your daily steps. Get up from your desk every hour and walk around your office. Take a leisurely stroll after dinner. Grab the kids and walk to school instead of driving. You may find that you enjoy walking enough to put together a more structured program that provides even greater benefits.