Feeling stuck in a rut? There’s no time like the present to get up, pull on your sneakers, and go for a brisk walk! We all know that physical activity leads to better overall health, but with so much hype surrounding pricy fitness programs and gym memberships, the benefits of walking are often overlooked.
The best part of starting a walking regimen? You don’t have to make a massive investment to see and feel results. Whether you’re new to exercise, or you simply can’t fathom the thought of following along to yet another fitness guru barking orders through your TV, the following information is sure to put a spark in your step and send you down the path to better health.
We’re here to give your walking mojo a boost! Read on to learn how walking just 30 minutes a day can improve virtually every aspect of your life. Why 30 minutes? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or fast dancing, each week.” That means, at minimum, adults should aim for 30 minutes of physical activity 5 times per week.
Take a Walk to Improve Your Mood and Mental Health
1. Walking Can Boost Your Mood
If you struggle with occasional sadness or you’ve been diagnosed with depression, taking a stroll may be the best medicine. A study conducted by the Duke University Medical Center found that walking three times each week can be just as effective in managing depression symptoms as anti-depressant medications.
If you’re feeling down, we suggest lacing up and taking a walk outdoors. Research shows that walking outside decreases depression symptoms even more than indoor activity. Plus, you won’t have to worry about the long list of side-effects that often come with taking medication.
2. Walking is Great for the Brain
Keep your brain active and alert by establishing a walking routine. Regular physical activity helps memory, learning, and cognition. Walking has been linked to better reading, and it reduces the risk of cognitive diseases, such as dementia.
3. Walking Can Help You Unplug
To gain clarity and perspective, take a break from technology. Slip on your walking shoes, turn off your phone, and take a walk in nature. Keep your phone within reach in case of emergency, but allow yourself to unplug from technology during your daily 30-minute walk. This “you time” is the perfect opportunity to relax, recharge, and reflect. It’s also an excellent opportunity to sift through any mental challenges you’re facing.
4. Walking Makes You More Mindful
It’s common to zone out during physical activity, but it’s much more enjoyable to move mindfully. Taking a walk outdoors is a treat for the senses. It’s a chance to practice mindfulness by simply noticing the world around you. Focus on one sense at a time; watch a butterfly fluttering, feel the air on your skin, listen to the gravel under your feet, and breathe in the fresh air around you. This practice will likely carry over into your everyday life.
5. Walking Can Be Calming
Whether you have a hectic career or you’re juggling family life and work responsibilities, scheduling in a 30-minute walk can actually make you calmer. Stress has become part of our everyday lives, but regular activity—like walking—lowers cortisol levels, which could lead to a less stressed you.
6. Walking Can Lead to Stronger Bonds
If you’re not keen on strolling solo, ask a friend or family member to join you! Not only will you keep each other accountable; you’ll both reap the benefits of social interaction and physical activity.
Consider scheduling a nightly walk after dinner with your partner or the entire family, and don’t forget to bring the family pup along. He’ll benefit from increased activity, too!
7. Walking Can Build Confidence
That’s right! Starting a walking routine can make you a more confident person. Sticking to your walking goals may even motivate you to add more healthy habits to your daily routine.
Tip: We recommend keeping a daily walking/activity log to view your progress at a glance. Seeing your successes on paper can be a source of encouragement—and a major confidence booster! Don’t forget to set goals and reward yourself often!
8. Walking Gets the Creative Juices Flowing
We all have a creative side. If you’re feeling less than inspired, taking a 30-minute walk is one of the best ways to tap into your creativity. According to a study conducted by the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory, and Cognition, walkers tend to think more creatively than sedentary people.
9. Walking Improves Intimacy
Thanks to its stress-busting and mood-boosting benefits, walking can heighten sexual desire and increase pleasure. Moderate exercise has been linked to improved sex drive in both men and women. It boosts body awareness and self-esteem, which can make you feel more confident in the bedroom.
10. Walking Is a Great Opportunity to Catch Up on “Reading” or Podcasts
Sure, a 30-minute “mindful” walk is a great way to tune into the world around you, but sometimes a distraction is just what we need! If you enjoy audiobooks or podcasts, multitasking during your walk is perfectly okay on occasion.
Walk Yourself to Better Physical Health
11. Walking Helps Ward Off Chronic Diseases
Establishing healthy habits not only boosts mood, creativity, and contentment; health-promoting rituals—like walking—can also have a major impact on your overall physical health. According to the American Diabetes Association, walking lowers blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of diabetes.
Still need a reason to get moving? Starting a walking routine can also lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke up to 40-percent, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30-percent. It is also believed to help prevent lung disease and cancer.
12. Walking Boosts Energy
If you rely on caffeine or power naps to make it through the day, let us suggest a healthier, more active approach. Walking increases blood flow throughout the body, including the brain, which can make you feel less drowsy and more energetic.
13. Walking Improves Digestion
Tummy troubles? A sedentary lifestyle could be to blame. Walking encourages the gastrointestinal system to work properly, keeping digestive problems at bay and banishing bloat.
Physical activity allows food to move through the stomach quickly. A post-meal walk also lowers blood sugar by moving glucose out of the bloodstream, according to a New York Times article.
14. Walking Keeps Bones Strong
Regardless of your age, it’s important to keep your bones in tiptop shape to combat low bone mass and osteoporosis. From the age of 20, women begin losing bone density, which can lead to serious health problems.
Walking 30 minutes each day can reduce the risk of fractures and spine shrinkage later in life. They key is consistency, so be sure to establish a walking routine you can stick to.
15. Walking Can Reduce Pain
Sadly, an estimated 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. It may seem counterproductive, but physical activity can reduce aches and pains and make your days more manageable.
Even if there is no cure for your underlying condition, walking is likely to have immediate effects and have a lasting impact.
16. Walking Leads to Better Sleep
Tossing and turning at night? Inactivity could be the culprit. According to a study published by Science Direct, people who walk regularly sleep better and longer.
If your sleep cycle is askew due to insomnia, rest assured that walking daily has been linked to improved sleep in insomniacs.
17. Walking Can Help You Live Longer
Our wish for you is to live the longest, healthiest, happiest life possible. If you want to maximize your years on this earth, go for a daily walk!
Believe it or not, daily exercise can add up to 7 years to your life! An illuminating article cited by Live Science notes that physical activity does indeed increase life expectancy, even in folks who are overweight or obese.
The best news? Every little bit counts. “As little as 75 minutes of brisk walking a week can increase life expectancy even for those who are overweight,” the research concludes.
18. Walking Amps Up the Metabolism
If you’ve grown accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle, you face a much higher risk of high cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, and harmful fat around the abdomen. These conditions can lead to major health complications, including heart disease, diabetes, and death.
Thankfully, beginning a walking routine now can lessen your chances of developing these problems, as well as reverse any damage that’s already been done, according to a scientific study published by Circulation.
Tip: To give your metabolism a major boost and keep your walk interesting, try interval training. Start with a 5-minute warm up followed by intervals of speed walking and slower recovery walking. Finish with a 5-minute cool down. If you’re walking on a treadmill, try increasing the incline.
19. Walking Can Relieve Allergies
According to the American College of Allergies, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), an astounding 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. Surprisingly, allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the United States. The good news? A fitness routine, such as walking, can reduce allergy symptoms by up to 70-percent!
20. Walking Can Help You Lose Weight
Walking just one mile burns approximately 100 calories. The exact amount you can burn greatly depends on a variety of factors, including your body weight, metabolism, walking speed, and effort.
While tweaking your eating habits may help you lose weight and keep it off, the vast majority of diets are restrictive and can make dieters feel deprived, which often leads to overeating and bingeing. Walking is a much more sustainable weight loss method for many men and women.
21. Walking Outside Boosts Vitamin D Levels in the Body
Vitamin D is a nutrient that’s essential for growth and development in children and adolescents, and it’s just as important for maintaining good physical and mental health in adults. According to Mercy Medical Center in Canton, Ohio, 42-percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient. This deficiency can lead to fragile, misshapen bones, and it has also been linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancer, as well as heart disease and depression.
The good news is, taking a walk outdoors exposes the body to sunlight, enabling it to create the vitamin D necessary for optimal physical and mental health. And don’t worry… wearing sunscreen doesn’t inhibit the body from soaking up those vital nutrients, so slather it on and enjoy a stroll in the sunshine!
22. Walking Improves Balance
As we age, we begin to lose our sense of balance, making falls more likely. Harvard Medical School recommends regular walking and strength training to build lower body strength, which improves balance and helps to prevent falls.
Harvard recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of walking each week, noting that ‘the minutes count, not the miles.”
23. Walking Keeps the Immune System Healthy
A sedentary lifestyle can make you more susceptible to illness. Walking boosts the immune system, allowing your cells to ward off bad bacteria. If you experience frequent colds or other illnesses, incorporating a walk into your day could help!
24. Walking Increases Lung Capacity
Regular exercise strengthens the lungs, making for easier breathing during active and sedentary periods. When you take a brisk walk, you’re giving your lungs a much-needed workout.
25. Walking Relieves PMS Symptoms
If you deal with monthly cramping, bloating, mood swings, and other premenstrual symptoms, taking part in low-impact activity, such as walking, can help tremendously. Along with alleviating physical pain and discomfort, walking releases endorphins, which can seriously boost your mood.
26. Walking Reduces Menopause Symptoms
Women going through menopause often suffer from increased insomnia, daytime fatigue, and stress. A brisk walk several times each week can alleviate these symptoms and make this phase of life more manageable.
Look and Feel Younger
27. Walking Can Stave Off the Signs of Ageing
We’ve mentioned that walking can boost your mood, but did you know that hitting the pavement can make you look and feel younger? Men and women who walk tend to look younger than their actual age. A study published by PLOS One also suggests that endurance exercise, like walking, can even slow the ageing process.
28. Walking Delays the Onset of Varicose and Spider Veins
Keep those legs warm-weather ready by walking regularly. Physical activity keeps blood flowing and strengthens leg muscles, which will keep you moving longer.
If you’re among the 40 million Americans who suffer from varicose veins, walking can reduce swelling and alleviate other problems, such as restless legs. Keep in mind that if you have family members with varicose veins, the likelihood of you developing the condition is much higher, according to the Chicago Vein Institute. In this case, physical activity is even more important, as varicose veins can lead to skin damage and life-threatening blood clots.
Set Your Own Speed
29. Walking Allows You to Go at Your Own Pace
Unlike fast-paced fitness classes at the gym and home exercise programs, walking allows you to start where you are and build up your speed and duration at a pace that’s comfortable for you.
Because walking is a low-impact activity, your body won’t take a beating.
Fitness on a Budget
30. Walking is Inexpensive
As previously mentioned, fitness programs can break the bank. If you’re pinching pennies, walking is the perfect budget-friendly alternative. Aside from a good pair of walking shoes, you’ll need only your two feet and a heartbeat to get started! By skipping the gym membership, you’ll have extra cash to spend on the things you love. Plus, active people tend to save money on health care, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Before you begin any fitness program, be sure to consult your physician. Once you get the go-ahead to start your walking routine, invest in a pair of supportive walking shoes and follow these simple steps:
- Pencil it in: Schedule your walk as you would any other appointment. Choose a time that’s convenient for you. An early bird may have no trouble waking up at 5 a.m. to walk, but if you prefer to sleep in, schedule your stroll later in the day.
- Always warm up: The first 5 minutes of your walk should be a warm-up period. It’s also important to cool-down after a brisk walk.
- Stay hydrated: Take a bottle of water along, and be sure to hydrate before and after your walk.
- Build up slowly: Although we recommend regular 30-minute walks for maximum results, it’s important to consider your current fitness level. If you haven’t exercised in years, start with a gentle 10-minute walk and slowly work your way up to 30 minutes of brisk walking.
- Watch your form: Walk steadily from heel to toe, maintain good posture, and let your arms swing comfortably.
- Log your progress: Keep a record of your activity in a notebook or on your phone. Note the time you spend walking, your energy level before, during, and after, and any other notes that may be helpful.
- Replace your walking shoes regularly: If you notice decreased support, it’s probably time to replace your shoes. As a rule of thumb, walking shoes should typically be replaced every 6 to 9 months.
- Have fun: The best tip we can offer for a sustainable walking program is to create a routine you can stick with. For some, that means 5 mindful, 30-minute walks each week. For others, a sustainable routine may include a change of scenery, a motivating music playlist, or regular walks with a friend. Do what works for you, and most importantly, never compare yourself to others.