Walking is one of the healthiest activities you can do. Putting one foot in front of the other has been consistently proven to benefit everything from blood pressure and weight control to your mood. And, because it only requires a pair of shoes and space to move, it’s one of the easiest workouts to accomplish.
Whether you’re walking specifically for exercise, commuting to work or choosing the stairs over the elevator, you’re on the right track. All that’s left is to make it a consistent habit. To that end, here are 10 great reasons to walk every day.
IT ESTABLISHES A ROUTINE
One of the most difficult aspects of working out is simply showing up. Getting out the door can feel daunting, but once you string together consistent workouts, they will become part of your routine. Research suggests that it takes about 66 days to form a habit. Going for a walk every morning or taking a stroll after dinner every night will put you on the path to long-term success.
IT LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE AND CHOLESTEROL
High blood pressure is associated with serious conditions, like stroke and heart disease, so it pays to keep your blood pumping smoothly. Fortunately, walking has proven to be a great option for reducing blood pressure. A six-year study following walkers and runners found that both disciplines reduce heart disease risk, but moderate-intensity walking (a pace of about three miles per hour) led to greater impacts on blood pressure and cholesterol.
IT’S GOOD FOR YOUR BONES
Weight-bearing exercises are good for your bones. This includes lifting weights, bodyweight exercises and even just standing on your own two feet. As you age, bone density naturally decreases, which can make fall-related injuries more severe and eventually lead to osteoporosis. Fortunately, walking can help. Studies show that walking can limit the loss of bone mass at the hip joint. Walking can also reduce the risk of experiencing a hip fracture by 30%.
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IT BOOSTS YOUR MOOD
If you’ve ever noticed you feel better after taking a stroll, you’re not alone. An Iowa State University study found that walking for just 12 minutes was enough to boost one’s mood, even without other smile-inducing factors like sunshine, upbeat music or walking with a conversation partner. Pretty much everyone has 12 minutes to spare, so take a walk when you’re feeling down or stressed, and see how your mood improves.
IT GIVES YOU ENERGY
Walking can help you power through that afternoon slump better than a cup of coffee. A University of Georgia in Athens study found that going for a 10-minute low-intensity walk left sleep-deprived participants more energized than when they consumed 50mg of caffeine. When fatigue sets in, get up and stretch your legs by going for a stroll — and if you can do so outside, even better.
IT GETS YOU OUTDOORS
Spending time outdoors is associated with myriad benefits, including lowering stress, improving concentration and boosting your mood. People are even known to exercise harder when they’re outside, walking faster outdoors than indoors. Take a walk around your neighborhood each day or hit your favorite trail so you can reap all of nature’s advantages.
IT PROMOTES WEIGHT CONTROL AND FAT LOSS
Walking may not burn as many calories as running and other more vigorous exercises, but studies show walking is a healthy way to lose weight and keep it off. To maintain your weight, experts suggest walking for at least 150 minutes per week. Of course, when it comes to exercise, the more the merrier. Aim for more minutes if you can, or try adding walking to an exercise regimen that also includes higher-intensity cardio and strength training.
IT REDUCES STRESS
Between work, social commitments and current events, the world is a stressful place. One simple remedy: Chase after that “runner’s high.” Or, in this case, the walker’s high. When you exercise, your brain and body unleash endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that lower anxiety and stress and promote feelings of wellbeing. One study found an hour of moderate exercise like walking reduced the risk of depression by 26%.
IT HELPS YOU THINK MORE CLEARLY AND CREATIVELY
If you need to solve a problem or brainstorm creative ideas, take a walk. A Stanford study found creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter. And an Austrian study showed a longer-term correlation, finding people who are regularly active display better creative cognition than those who aren’t.
IT PROMOTES A LONGER LIFE
A long-term study covering more than 300,000 people showed older adults who engaged in regular exercise since adolescence had a 36% lower risk of dying from all causes than those who were sedentary. This fact alone is reason enough to walk more. Start young, if you can, and keep moving as you age.
Luckily, there’s good news for those who have yet to get the exercise bug. The researchers discovered people who start exercising in their 40s and 50s experienced similar longevity benefits, reducing their risk of dying by as much as 35%.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to get out the door for a walk each and every day. Even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes, it all adds up to physical, emotional and mental impacts that benefit your overall health and fitness in the long run.
Make progress every day while you work on fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.