What are the benefits of walking every day?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, those who walk regularly may experience an improvement in their health, including reducing the risk of cancer, heart attacks, and stroke. It also may help to reduce the symptoms of certain mental illnesses like depression.

What are the benefits of walking every day?

Some of the most important benefits of walking every day include circulation improvement, boosting the immune system, strengthening muscles, supporting your joints, and possibly weight loss. Walking can also help you mentally by improving your sleep and lightening your mood.

While more strenuous or high-impact exercises like running, tennis, or Zumba might be a good fit for some people, others will get the most benefit from daily walking. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to participate in a fast-paced sport in order to reap the benefits of exercise. 

Inactivity in adults increases the risk of many health issues, but while the CDC recommends at least 2.5 hours of aerobic physical activity per week, not even half of U.S. adults meet this goal. Walking is a gentle and effective form of aerobic exercise that will get you on the road to better health with just a minor change in your daily routine.

Here are some of the benefits of walking every day:

Improved Mood and Digestion

Walking can improve your mood and digestion—for example, walking with a friend or in the sunlight can reduce depression and seasonal affective disorder. Walking with someone also helps you stay accountable and motivated.

Disease Prevention

Walking can decrease risks of diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Long walks are the most effective for disease prevention—an hourlong walk once or twice a week will greatly improve your chances of reducing the risk of disease. Walking often reduces blood pressure by as many as 11 points and possibly lowers the chance of a stroke by 20 to 40 percent.

According to The New England Journal of Medicine, people who walked enough to meet recommended physical activity levels had a 30 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease than people who do not walk often.

Weight Loss and a Healthier Brain

Walking can lead to weight loss over time if combined with healthy eating. It can even improve your creativity and problem-solving skills.

Alleviation of Joint Pain

Although the impact of stepping on pavement might seem harmful to your joints, walking actually might help reduce joint pain, as it causes blood to flow to tense areas and strengthens muscles around the joints.

In the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, a study found that, out of 1,564 adults older than 49 with joint pain in their lower body, the people who walked an hour every week had better mobility than those who did not.

Immunity Strengthening

Strangely enough, walking can even improve your immunity. A study from Arthritis Research and Therapy found that high-intensity interval walking over the course of 10 weeks helped improve immune function in adults who are older and struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. Walking also helps people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease reduce their risk of morbidity and mortality, according to research from Chronic Respiratory Disease.

Longer Life

Walking might even help you live longer. Research from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that people from the ages of 70 to 90 who went outside and were physically active lived longer than people who did not.

Better Sleep

Lastly, walking regularly can help you sleep because it reduces stress and pain that might keep you awake. One study in Sleep discovered that women past menopause who do light or moderate physical activity sleep better than women who are sedentary.

How to Maximize the Benefits of Walking

Keep an Eye on Your Speed

Focus on quality as well as quantity—walking fast enough to get to 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

“For most fit people, walking on flat ground is not intense enough to optimize fitness improvement,” ACSM-certified personal trainer and corporate director of exercise physiology Mike Siemens told Pop Sugar.

Basically, you need to be walking at a quick pace of at least three and a half miles an hour—or, in other words, 15 minutes per mile.

Add in Strength Exercises

One way to maximize your walking workout each day is to stop every four or five minutes to complete 10 or more strength exercises, such as push-ups or squats. You can also supplement walks with two days of yoga or resistance training.

Warm Up

You should always take the time to warm up before you walk because it will help with flexibility and cause your heart to start pumping. Stretching after your walk will also keep your muscles loose and prevent injury.

Conquer Some Hills

If you can, try to walk in an area with a few hills to add some resistance training to your walks, or use a hill setting on a treadmill if you have access to one.

Make Use of Intervals

You can also add intervals for extra calorie burning. After three minutes of warming up, try walking for 25 minutes alternating between a minute of walking as fast as you can go and one minute of brisk walking, cooling down for two minutes afterward.

Increase Your Steps

You should also be increasing your number of steps. The tried and true 10,000 steps a day is just a baseline—try to increase that by 2,000 steps and once you get comfortable with that amount, increase by another 2,000 steps.

Vary Your Routine

Once you find a walking workout that works, do not get too comfortable—vary your workout to build more muscle and burn more calories. Instead of following the same route at the same pace, throw in a few extra difficult days, a few interval days, a long slow day and an easy day.

Walking: Your Steps to Health published in Harvard Health maintains that in order to derive benefit from any workout, you must balance three things: 

  • Workout intensity
  • Duration of the workout 
  • How frequently you workout

While you might get your workout done faster with a more high-intensity exercise, you can easily gain the same benefits from walking – you just have to do it for a little bit longer. 

How many calories you burn while you walk depends on a few factors, including how fast you walk and how much you currently weigh. 

Walking SpeedCalories burned in 30 minutes at 125 lbsCalories burned in 30 minutes at 155 lbsCalories burned in 30 minutes at 185 lbs
17-minute mile120149178
15-minute mile135167200
13-minute mile150186222
Source: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights Pub: Harvard Health

While you can get more calories burned in the same time frame while jogging (180 calories in 30 minutes at 125lbs according to the same article), you can easily walk for just a little bit longer and achieve the same benefits. 

In this video, Dr. Michael Grace M.D. explains how walking 30-60 min a day can help both your health and weight loss management.

If you walk at least 30 minutes a day at a moderate level on four days each week, there are several health benefits to be gained. Best of all, these 30 minutes a day do not even need to be consecutive—if you do not have time to do all the minutes together and have to break the walking into 10-minute segments throughout the day, you can still reap all of the benefits.

In fact, research from Circulation found that, out of 7,000 men, those who worked out in segments of 15 minutes were just as healthy as the men who completed their workout in a single session.