Benefits of Walking: How a Daily Walk Can Improve Your Health

What if there was one simple activity you could do each day that carried dozens of health benefits? An activity that only required a pair of shoes and a good attitude?

We’re talking, of course, about taking a daily walk.

Walking is the most popular exercise for Americans and with good reason. The health benefits of a daily walk are numerous. From lowering blood pressure to boosting mood, walking can bring positive changes to both your mind and body.

Here are the top 10 benefits of walking.

1. Helps You Meet Exercise Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week. That number can feel like a lot when you look at it as a whole.

But it’s just 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Or a little over 20 minutes every day. A daily walking practice can help you meet, and even surpass, the guidelines.

People often wonder: Is walking the same as running, when it comes to health? Walking and running each carry mental and physical benefits. But for many people, walking is more accessible than running because it’s easier on your joints.

However, even if you’re an avid runner, don’t discount the magic of adding in a daily walk!

2. Helps Reduce Your Risk for Many Diseases

A daily walk of 20 minutes or more helps lower your blood pressure. When you lower your blood pressure, you reduce your risk of developing:

  • Heart disease.
  • Stroke.
  • Diabetes.
  • Several types of cancer.

In fact, research from the American Heart Association found that walking just 1,000 extra steps could increase your life span. By analyzing several studies, researchers found a link between steps and mortality. Every 1,000-step increase gave people a 22% lower chance of dying from all causes.

Walking can also lower your risk for sleep apnea, reflux disease, and depression. The numbers are clear: The more steps you take each day, the healthier your body will be.

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3. Helps Lower Blood Sugar

People living with diabetes need to constantly be aware of their blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels. Taking a daily walk is a great way to keep blood sugar in check.

In fact, newer research has found that taking a walk after a meal helps improve blood sugar even more. A 2022 review study in the journal Sports Medicine examined seven studies about how walking could impact measures of heart health. Blood sugar levels are a common measure of heart health.

Looking at the data, researchers found that one of the benefits of walking after a meal is to control blood sugar levels. Even just five minutes of walking helped. So, if you’re trying to decide what time of day to take your walk, consider doing it post-meal.

4. Helps Strengthen Bones and Muscles

Walking forces you to use muscles you don’t necessarily use when going about your daily life. It engages your leg muscles, your lower back, and even your core.

Walking is also a bone-building exercise. It helps strengthen joints by circulating more blood to your cartilage. The cartilage in your ankles, knees, and hips gets oxygen and nutrients from the circulating blood.

Even just walking 10 minutes a day can help prevent disability and improve arthritis pain. Walking can also help prevent bone loss from osteoporosis. For women over the age of 65, this is especially important.

5. Boosts Your Mood

Walking helps release your body’s feel-good chemicals, like dopamine and endorphins. It’s one reason why a walk can help improve mental health.

In one study of younger adults, a 10-minute bout of brisk walking helped improve mood. It also helps improve mental well-being for older adults. In fact, some researchers are exploring the idea that walking is one of the best anti-aging strategies.

And if you’re wondering where to walk to get the most mental benefit, consider heading to the woods. Scientists found that taking a 1-hour walk in nature actually changes (for the better) the part of the brain that processes stress. This stress-reduction effect wasn’t as strong for participants who walked in an urban area.

6. Improves Your Immune System

Walking gets all systems in your body moving. Blood and oxygen circulate more, and this increased blood flow helps improve immunity. It means you can eliminate waste products faster, allowing you to heal more quickly,

Walking also increases the circulation of your white blood cells. White blood cells are the heroes of your immune system. An American College of Sports Medicine study found that 30 minutes of brisk walking helps the circulation of white blood cells.

7.  Helps You Sleep Better

We know that tiring your body out with exercise helps you sleep better. But why?

For one, it helps boost your body’s sleep hormone, melatonin. There’s also a connection between walking and sleep quality. Research consistently finds that people who walk regularly sleep better.

Ultimately, it’s a chain reaction. Walking reduces stress, helps with chronic pain, and helps keep you from getting sick. All of these things add up to less nighttime disturbances

8. Can Stimulate Creativity

Have you ever been stuck trying to solve a problem, and you go for a walk, and suddenly, the answer becomes clear? You’re not imagining it!

Taking a walk is one of the best ways to get your ideas flowing. Like showering or driving, it creates a state of openness or flow. The fresh air, the change of scenery, the increased blood flow: it moves you forward, in all the best ways.

9. Helps Prevent Dementia

We know that regular walking can help with memory decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have been trying to quantify just how much.

According to a 2022 study in JAMA Neurology, increasing how many steps you take each day can cut your dementia risk. For the greatest benefit (a 50% reduction in dementia risk), study participants had to walk about 9,800 steps a day. But even 3,800 more steps reduced their risk by 25%.

10. Helps You Make Other Lifestyle Changes

Forming a healthy habit like daily walking is a great jump-start to achieve your other health goals. You gain confidence from your daily steps, and it helps create a sense of purpose.

The formula is simple: Put one foot in front of the other, day after day. Rinse, repeat, and be well.

American Heart Association. Why is Walking the Most Popular Form of Exercise? Link 12 Benefits of Walking. Link

How much physical activity do adults need? Link

Upping your step count, even in small amounts, may increase life span. Link

The Acute Effects of Interrupting Prolonged Sitting Time in Adults with Standing and Light-Intensity Walking on Biomarkers of Cardiometabolic Health in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis Link

Experimental effects of brief, single bouts of walking and meditation on mood profile in young adults Link

The multifaceted benefits of walking for healthy aging: from Blue Zones to molecular mechanisms Link

How nature nurtures: Amygdala activity decreases as the result of a one-hour walk in nature Link

Immune Response to a 30-Minute Walk Link

Association of Daily Step Count and Intensity With Incident Dementia in 78 430 Adults Living in the UK Link

Prevention. 15 Major Benefits of Walking, According to Experts. Link Is Walking Good for You? Experts Explain the Mental and Physical Benefits. Link

About UPMC

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