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- Walking can be one heckuva workout — especially if you head uphill or pick up the pace.
- It can boost your mood, strengthen your bones, and help you sleep better (among other benefits).
- You can burn even more calories and gain strength by weaving in intervals, adding some weight, or simply walking faster.
- Stay safe and alert during your walking workouts — just like you would on a run or bike ride.
Let’s set the record straight: Running may get the glory, but walking can hold its own when it comes to health and fitness benefits. In fact, not only is walking a more accessible form of exercise than running, it’s also an Olympic sport.
“Walking is an excellent workout,” says Rachel MacPherson, an ACE certified personal trainer. “Humans have evolved to walk consistently every day. It’s an integral part of our nature and was crucial for our survival.”
And, she says, if you’re looking for an alternative to pricey, crowded fitness studios, it doesn’t get any better than walking: “It’s convenient, cheap — and easy to pick up and go.”
Adults are supposed to rack up 150 minutes of physical activity each week — or a little more than 20 minutes a day. Thankfully, walking can count toward that quota.
“Walking can raise your heart rate, contributing to your recommended daily activity,” says MacPherson.
And that’s just the beginning. Here are 13 of the health benefits of walking every day:
1. It burns plenty of calories
Your actual calorie burn will depend on how fast and how far you walk (and where), along with your weight. Walking at a brisk pace burns about 150 calories in 30 minutes (for a 175-pound person).
2. It requires less gear than running
Running is a higher-impact activity, requiring special shoes (not to mention a sports bra for many people), workout clothes, etc. Walking requires a pair of supportive shoes — but not much more.
If you choose, you could turn your commute home into exercise, or squeeze in a short walk on your lunch or coffee break.
3. It may help lower blood sugar
Even short walks can yield big benefits. One small study showed that walking after each meal, for only 15 minutes, helped improve blood sugar levels — and it did so more than a single 45-minute walk! That’s great news for busy folks.
4. It’s great for your mood
Walking really is a good way to clear your head — and studies prove it.
Walking, like other cardiovascular activities, can help ease anxiety, depression and overall bad moods. Even better? When your mental state makes going to the gym or getting dressed for yoga feel like too much effort, walking may feel more approachable.
5. It strengthens your ticker
Walking for 30 minutes or more each day is good for your heart, too. In fact, it’s so good that a 2009 study recommended walking be “prescribed” as a way to prevent coronary heart disease. It reduced risks by almost 20 percent!
6. It can ease joint pain
Walking not only helps keep your joints lubricated and healthy — it also helps you strengthen the surrounding muscles. If your knees don’t love running, then walking can be a win-win!
7. It’ll strengthen your legs
Want stronger, more toned legs? Start by walking — then pick up the pace or find a hilly route to boost the strength-building benefits.
8. It’s good for immune health
Walking every day for less than an hour may help you fight off upper respiratory infections (or recover faster if you do catch one). A study of 1,002 adults found that those who walked 30 to 45 minutes daily took fewer sick days — and were sick less often, too.
9. It could add years to your life
Pick up the pace on your next walk — it could help you live longer!
An analysis of 11 surveys of British adults found that those who walked at a moderate pace had lower mortality risks (compared with slow walkers). Fast walkers had even lower risks (24 percent versus 20 percent for the “average” walkers).
10. It can get those creative juices flowing
Feeling stuck? Experiencing writer’s block? Take a walk or pace around your office. Stanford researchers found that walking can boost creativity by 60 percent — and it doesn’t matter where you do it!
11. It builds stronger bones
Walking is a weight-bearing exercise. It forces your body to work against gravity — and that’s good news for your bone health, especially as you age.
12. It’s appropriate for all fitness levels
Whether you’re new to exercise or live at the gym, walking can be a great workout, says MacPherson. (See her tips below for boosting the burn you feel on your walk, based on your fitness levels.) Walking’s relative accessibility also makes it a great activity to do with friends!
13. It could help improve your shut-eye
Want to sleep better? Go for a walk. An analysis of over 30 studies examining the sleep and exercise connection found that physical activities like walking overwhelmingly had positive effects on rest.
Want to burn more calories and build strength while walking? Integrate some of these tips into your walking workouts. (And check out this handy guide for turning a walk into a sweat sesh.)
- “Use elevation to your advantage,” says MacPherson. “Find a hilly area to walk or use a treadmill incline.” As a bonus: “Walking uphill will also help build muscle.”
- Or up the ante with intervals, she suggests. “Add in short bursts of jogging or running or perform walking lunges.”
- Grab a pair of trekking or walking poles for your next walk. “You’ll burn more calories and increase your heart rate while working your core and upper body muscles,” says MacPherson.
- Add a weighted vest (instead of ankle or hand weights). The added weight of the vest will boost the strengthening and cardio benefits, while keeping you safe. (Ankle or hand weights can throw off your balance.)
We know we sound like your parents, but safety is SO important. While walking is for the most part a safe, accessible workout, you should still keep these things in mind to avoid injury or risky situations.
- If you’re walking solo, make sure you tell a friend where you’re going. Consider sharing your route or location via the Find My app.
- Heading off the grid? Download a map of the area where you’ll walk, so you can find your way back, even if cell coverage is spotty.
- Listening to music? “Use only one earphone or clip a small speaker on your shoulder instead of plugging your ears with speakers,” suggests MacPherson.
- Stay hydrated — especially in heat. “Walking is low-impact, but it’s still important to be careful of overheating in the hot weather,” says MacPherson. “Drink water before and after, and if you walk and sweat for over an hour, consider using an electrolyte-balancing beverage.”
- “Be sure you can see and hear traffic if you walk in a populated area,” she advises. “Walk facing the traffic, in well-lit areas.” If you’re walking early or late in the day, wear something reflective so cars can see you.
- Warm up and cool down. Just as you would with running or more intense activities, proper warmups and cooldowns will help your body stay strong and healthy.
- Put your phone away. It might be tempting to use your walk as a chance to catch up on texts or email, but this is a great way to end up twisting your ankle — or walking into traffic! Your mind and body will enjoy the break from your screen.
We know those boots were made for walkin’, and that’s just what they’ll do. So grab your favorite pair of footwear and get out for a stroll.