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Home arrow Fitness arrow Walking arrow Get Your Steps In: 10 Benefits of Walking

Get Your Steps In: 10 Benefits of Walking

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: August 3, 2023
7 min read 586 Views 0 Comments
clock 7 eye 586 comments 0

Discover 10 reasons to take a stroll and learn how to make walking an enjoyable part of your everyday life.

benefits of walking

Walking is an often overlooked form of exercise that has been around since the dawn of time. 

Many of us prioritize hitting the gym or going for a run over taking an evening stroll, assuming that the benefits of a 20-minute walk around the block are likely few. 

But in this article, we’ll delve into the advantages that walking every day can offer and offer insight into why it should become a part of your routine.

10 Health Benefits of Walking

Walking is a low-impact exercise that provides numerous health benefits. People of all ages and activity levels can easily add walking into their daily routine and experience the following ten benefits from doing so.

#1 Reduces stress 

One of the most profound benefits of creating a regular walking routine is the impact it can have on stress levels.

Cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone, is released in the body in response to danger. In our modern world, most of us are experiencing heightened cortisol levels all the time in response to our stressful and fast-paced lives.

Symptoms of higher-than-normal cortisol levels include weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and heightened blood pressure. 

Walking is a form of moderate exercise that has been shown to regulate cortisol levels in the body and prevent the unwanted spikes that generally accompany chronic stress.

Studies have also proven that being out in nature can have a positive impact on stress levels, so walking outdoors, or going on a hike, can help to maximize the potential stress-reducing benefits of your walk.

Lower cortisol levels also play an important role in many other benefits we will dive into below.

#2 Improves bone health

Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the bones, making them weak and more likely to break. 

It affects roughly 10 million Americans, though as many as 44 million have low bone density, putting them at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

Walking is a weight-bearing activity that puts just the right amount of stress on the bones. 

Although it may sound counterintuitive, stressing the bones in some way is actually very important for bone health, as it signals the body to activate bone-forming cells, which are essential for improving bone strength and density.

Walking has the added benefit of being low impact, meaning that it puts minimal stress on the joints, making these bone benefits more accessible to people of all fitness levels.

#3 Lowers blood sugar

Insulin is a hormone that is essential for regulating blood sugar levels. It works by regulating the amount of glucose that is able to enter the cells, where it is then used by the cells for fuel.

Poor insulin sensitivity leads to chronically high blood sugar levels and can leave you at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes.

All forms of physical activity that stimulate the muscles, including walking, help to lower blood sugar levels by using up the excess glucose in the bloodstream as fuel for the muscles.

Regular walking has also been clinically proven to improve insulin sensitivity, which enables your body to use insulin more effectively and control blood sugar levels with greater ease.

#4 Increases muscle strength

Although walking won’t provide the same muscle-building results as running or lifting weights, it is a low-impact form of exercise that strengthens many of the major muscle groups while preventing joint pain.

As you walk, many of the muscles in the lower body, including the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and calves, help to propel you forward. Walking also engages the abdominal and lower back muscles, which provide stability and support as you move.

Strengthening these muscle groups also plays an often-overlooked role in improving the strength of your bones. This is because the tension that strong muscles put on the bones as you move encourages the strengthening of the bones.

#5 Helps maintain a healthy weight

Daily walking can also have a positive effect on weight loss for a few different reasons.

As mentioned above, going for walks can help to improve insulin sensitivity, which is important because losing weight and maintaining healthy body weight is difficult when you’re insulin resistant.

When you walk, you’re also burning calories, which can help put you in a calorie deficit – meaning you expend more calories than you eat, which is widely regarded as the best way to lose weight.

Studies also show that walking for 1 mile – which can be done in as little as 15 minutes, helps to curb cravings for sugary treats like chocolate and reduce the amount of snacking you do when stressed.

All of these walking-related weight loss benefits can be maximized by combining a walking routine with a healthy diet.

#6 Improves heart health

Another health benefit of doing physical activity regularly, including walking, is that it can help to improve your heart health – which is important considering an estimated 695,000 Americans die from heart disease each year.

Walking, in particular, has been clinically proven to increase levels of HDL cholesterol, as known as good cholesterol, to prevent plaque buildup in the arteries.

There are also studies showing that walking has been shown to reduce blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic, which is an effective way to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

#7 Helps aid digestion

One of the unexpected benefits of walking is the impact it can have on digestion, with a simple daily walk being very useful for reducing bloating and indigestion.

This is in part because walking stimulates peristalsis, a contraction through the intestines that helps to move food through the digestive tract and facilitate the absorption of nutrients from said food.

Walking also increases blood flow through the entire body, including the digestive system. Increased blood flow helps to bring much-needed oxygen to the intestines to aid them in the digestion and nutrient absorption process.

#8 Boosts mood and creativity

Walking is also a fantastic tool for improving mental health, with many studies supporting its efficacy in reducing anxiety and depression and boosting mood.

Some of these benefits can be attributed to the endorphins we release when active, which act as mood boosters that enhance feelings of happiness and relaxation.

But walking can also help to increase creativity since it’s a simple repetitive motion that distracts our minds and opens up a free flow of ideas. One study showed that about an hour of walking on a treadmill can increase creativity by up to 81%.

#9 Enhances immune function

Another surprising benefit of walking is that it can boost immune function. This is because it stimulates the production of antibodies and anywhere from 1–3 times more white blood cells, both of which are essential to a healthy immune system.

#10 Improves sleep

The stress-reducing effects of walking are also very helpful for improving the quality of your sleep, which can improve your energy levels, help you maintain a healthy weight, and improve cardiovascular fitness.

Tips to Get Started

If you’re ready to enjoy all of the health benefits of walking, these simple tips will help you get started.

  • Start with a comfortable pace. If you’re new to walking, walk slowly to start and gradually build up to brisk walking over time; and only if you want to. This will help to prevent aches and pains and help you build sustainable strength.
  • Stay consistent. Going for an hour-long walk every day will provide far more benefits to you than walking for 2 hours a few times a week.
  • Track your progress. Whether you choose to track your mileage using a walking app or in the notes section of your phone, monitoring your progress is a great way to keep you motivated.
  • Have fun. When you’re walking, listening to a podcast or audiobook, or even inviting your friends to walk with you is a simple way to make your walks more enjoyable.

A Word From Our Coach

Walking is a simple and effective way to improve your health, and thanks to it being so easy on the joints, it is recommended for people of all activity levels by sports medicine experts – including individuals who are overweight or elderly.

If you are just beginning a walking program, be sure to start at a slower pace and choose the route you plan to walk beforehand to ensure that you hit your desired mileage.

Depending on where you live, you may do your walking in a wooded outdoor space to enhance the stress-relieving benefits of walking every day.

Regardless of where you decide to walk, be sure to wear comfortable walking-specific shoes, bring a water bottle, and maybe your headphones to listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook.

FAQs

Is walking every day enough exercise?

Yes, walking every day can be a viable form of exercise. In fact, many of the longest-living humans on the planet use walking as their main form of physical activity.

What will happen if you walk every day?

If you decide to take up walking as your form of daily exercise, expect to notice a significant decrease in stress levels, better digestion, enhanced muscle strength, and improved sleep quality.

How many steps should you walk every day?

The CDC considers 10,000 steps, which is around 5 miles, or 8 kilometers, to be the ideal walking distance. However, studies show that as little as 20 minutes of walking per day can improve immune function and reduce sugar cravings.

Conclusion

Walking is a form of physical activity that has many benefits for both the body and the mind. Unlike other forms of exercise, walking has a very low impact on the joints, making it significantly more accessible to people of all levels.

Hitting 10,000 steps daily is a great goal, but if you’re limited in time or find it too hard on the body, remember that even 20 minutes of walking per day can help keep you on track to live a long and healthy life.

Written by Isabel Mayfield
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
The article was fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
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Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: August 3, 2023
7 min read 586 Views 0 Comments
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