I’ll be honest: as a lover of the endorphin rush that comes from running faster or further than you wanted to, doing more burpees than you thought possible, or feeling your heart pump through your chest in a group fitness class, sometimes the idea of “just” going for a walk used to seem a bit … underwhelming. But as I’ve learned more about the benefits of walking, and incorporated more walking into my own routine, I’ve come to realize that walking is one of the most effective and underutilized forms of exercise. Both physically and mentally, I believe walking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Read on to learn my top 7 benefits of walking!
7 Benefits of Walking
- Walking counteracts genes that predispose us to obesity: Reports from the Harvard School of Public Health show that walking for an hour a day can reduce the impact of genes that predispose some people to obesity. So, if you’ve ever blamed your weight on your genes, it’s time to get walking! You have the power to take control of your health with a simple walk!
- Walking lowers blood pressure and triglycerides: There are hundreds of studies on the health benefits of walking, but this one shows that just one day (!!!) of three 10-minute daily walks, or one 30-minute daily walk, lowers blood pressure by 6-7% and lowers triglycerides by 16%. Imagine the accumulated benefits over time if you included a walk every day!
- Walking requires minimal planning or equipment: If you’re fortunate enough to have two working legs, you can walk anywhere, anytime. Aside from shoes (and even without them, if you prefer!), you need absolutely nothing. You don’t have to wait for a class to start. You don’t have to wait for the weather to be perfect. You just walk … anywhere, anytime. What a great way to eliminate excuses!
- Walking is great for joint health: Many people think that using our joints weakens them, but the opposite is true! Low-intensity movement like walking actually lubricates joints and strengthens surrounding muscles, making joint pain less likely in those who walk regularly. In fact, walking just 5-6 miles per week has been shown to be helpful in preventing arthritis, and improving arthritis symptoms in those who already have the condition.
- Walking can reduce sugar cravings and keep blood sugar stable: If you’ve been my health coaching client (link to health coaching page) and you’ve struggled with mindless eating or sugar cravings, I’ve almost certainly told you to go for a walk or do 20 jumping jacks when the cravings strike. Doing something physical “jolts” your brain out of the mindless eating mode, and helps you dissociate from the automatic tendency to overeat. This study showed that those who went for a 15-minute walk when craving chocolate ate less than half the amount of chocolate as those who didn’t walk! Walking can also be an effective way to stabilize blood sugar after meals, especially in those prone to unstable blood sugar.
- Walking boosts immune function: Walking is one of the best natural boosts for your immune system (want a few more? Check out this video!). In one study, those who walked just 20 minutes per day had 43% fewer sick days than those who were inactive. If you want to reduce your likelihood of getting sick, incorporate a daily walk!
- Walking has enormous benefits for your mind and stress levels: When I am stressed, one of the best things for me to do is go for a walk without any technology. The opportunity to connect to nature, let my mind wander, stop staring at a screen, and be truly present is one I welcome with open arms, and try to take advantage of often. A 10-minute walk can reduce cortisol (a stress hormone) and make you feel more centered and restored. So next time you feel overwhelmed, don’t reach for the bag of chips or bowl of ice cream, and don’t sit on the couch thinking that scrolling through Instagram will alleviate your stress … get out there and go for a walk!
How to incorporate walking into your lifestyle
I am a big fan of walking anywhere possible. My personal rule is that if I can walk (meaning, I don’t have 50 pounds of groceries, unwieldy equipment, etc.), I do walk anywhere less than a mile away. I also walk to and from work each day, and home in the middle of the day to take out my dog, which adds up to about an hour of extra walking each day.
Depending on your living circumstances, this may not be possible, but if you are physically able, I suggest starting to incorporate a 10 minute walk every day. Find a time that almost always works for you. Right when you wake up, as soon as you get home from work, right after dinner, or right before bed are times that commonly work for my clients (link to health coaching page). Whatever time it is for you, challenge yourself to do this every day for 10 days in a row, and let me know what benefits of walking you experience. Bonus points for not using technology on your walk!
Want even more? Check out this post on the top 7 benefits of exercise (that have nothing to do with the scale)!
Now it’s your turn … How often do you go for a walk? What benefits have you experienced?