Walking is one of the best forms of exercise. It’s free and offers many proven health benefits.
You don’t need to dedicate large blocks of your day to walk and reap the benefits. Just 30 minutes of walking a day is enough to make a difference to your health and wellbeing.
The benefits of walking are numerous. Regular walking can:
Improve your mood
Help you lose weight
Lower the risk of chronic disease
Make you more creative and productive (really!)
Reduce stress and anxiety
Compared to other exercises like running, walking is a good option because:
It’s lower impact so puts less stress on joints
It’s easier to get started for people who haven’t been exercising regularly
You can easily fit it into your workday - it’s easy to fit in a 10 minute walk at lunch without needing to change into sports clothes
You can easily walk and talk with friends, making it a social activity
Find ways to add a few extra minutes of walking throughout your day or set aside a regular time each morning or evening to enjoy some of these amazing benefits!
Let’s look at the health benefits of walking in more detail:
1. Your Mood Improves
Walking is one of the healthiest ways to improve your mood. Research shows regular walking changes the nervous system, so there is a decrease in anger and hostility. Many psychologists recommend walking to a person who feels depressed or anxious because it can give them a mental boost without the need for medication.
Walking outside in the sun has the added benefit of a vitamin D hit which also helps to improve a person’s mood and outlook.
2. You Lose Weight
Walking every day is a good way to burn more calories for weight loss. It’s an exercise that is gentle on the body which is important for people recovering from an injury. Low impact exercise is good for larger people because their size can place pressure on their joints and heart. Regular walking increases the body’s metabolism, so extra calories are burnt rather than stored.
Can you lose belly fat by walking?
Some of the most dangerous fat is the type that sits around your waist so reducing abdominal fat will improve your long-term health outlook. Walking improves your body’s response to insulin which helps with reducing belly fat.
3. You Reduce the Risk of Chronic Disease
A sedentary lifestyle leads to a range of diseases so walking every day can reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease. When you walk, your blood sugar levels reduce - regular physical activity can reduce your risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 40%.
Regular walking also lowers blood pressure which can cut the risk of stroke by 20 to 40%. Cardiovascular disease is a significant killer but a New England Journal of Medicine article published in 2002 showed 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times per week can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30%. The risk of some cancers can be reduced by regular walking.
For seniors, bone and muscle strength are essential - keeping physically active can help prevent osteoporosis.
4. Walking Makes You More Creative and Productive
Ever noticed that you sometimes feel like getting up from your desk and pacing around while trying to solve a problem or talk through a tricky situation on the phone?
Going for a walk can help overcome a problem that seemed impossible to fix sitting at a desk. The increase in blood to the brain can also improve your creativity. A Stanford University study found creative output increased by 60 percent when participants were walking compared to sitting.
So if you are stuck on a problem or in an afternoon work slump, hit the footpath rather than the kitchen for your usual caffeine pick me up.
5. Better Digestion
Digestive problems can be improved by taking a walk after your meal. One study showed that walking after a meal speeds up the rate that food moves through the stomach while another study showed walking could decrease blood sugar levels. A drop in blood sugar reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Walking is ideal because it’s a moderate form of exercise. Intense exercise after eating will slow digestion of food because muscles need the blood flow.
6. Circulation Boost
The human circulatory system nourishes and maintains the body’s cells and carries waste away from organs, so keeping it in good condition is vital.
A healthy heart and blood, normal blood pressure and unclogged arteries are all needed for good circulation. A brisk walk each day will increase your heart rate and get the blood pumping around your body. Poor blood circulation can cause varicose veins, cardiovascular disease, memory loss, headaches and dizziness.
7. Walking Reduces Stress
Regular exercise is a good way to improve your mental health. We now know that exercise can elevate and stabilise our mood, relieve anxiety and reduce stress. In fact, studies have shown that walking for just 10 minutes could be just as good for your mental health as an intense 45 minute workout.
Experts have found that that walking triggers the release endorphins - chemicals in your brain that relieve pain and stimulate relaxation. The more endorphins circulating in the body, the greater sense of calm and well-being a person is likely to feel.
How Much Should You Walk Each Day? (30 Minutes Might be Enough)
The beauty of walking is you don’t need to pound the pavement for hours every day to get the benefits. Experts believe a 30-minute walk taken five times a week can offer substantial health benefits.
Can you lose weight by walking 30 minutes a day?
Many people are of the opinion that walking won’t lead to weight loss because they aren’t exerting themselves enough. However, 30 minutes a day is enough to maintain and even lose weight for people who are overweight.
What Happens if You Walk an Hour a Day for a Month?
Increasing the level of exercise from 30 minutes to one hour burns twice as many calories, and can improve the results for weight loss and body fat loss. Research shows that people who get three to five times more than the recommended amount of physical activity lower their risk of death by 39%. Doing one hour of physical activity per day eliminates the increased risk of premature death which comes with sitting eight hours per day.
The Proven Results of Walking Every Day
An eight-month US exercise and weight loss study included sedentary, overweight men and women aged 40 to 65 years. They walked 30 minutes a day (12 miles per week) at 40-55% maximum heart rate, with participants recording an average 1% loss in body weight, 2% loss of body fat, a 1.6% reduction in waist measurement, and a gain of 0.7% in lean muscle.
Another group in the study that jogged rather than walked the 12 miles recorded an increase in body fat loss and muscle gained but other results were similar to those who walked. However, the group that jogged 20 miles per week recorded good results in all measurements. The control group that continued not to exercise gained fat and weight over the eight months.
So now you know. Walking 30 minutes a day for weight loss and health improvements is in fact a reality for many people. It won’t happen overnight, but if you commit to regular daily walking, it can work for you.
Walking in the Morning Has Its Own Benefits
Walking in the morning (rather than later in the day) has additional advantages. A brisk morning walk gets the circulation going to improve your mental sharpness for the rest of the day. It also gives you a sense of achievement and stops you looking for an excuse to not go for a walk later in the day. You can use your walking time to plan out your day and prioritise the tasks you need to finish. Getting at least 10-15 minutes of morning sun will help your body produce vitamin D which is vital for strong, healthy bones and preventing cancer.
Benefits of Walking vs Running
While running will burn more calories and potentially more fat than walking, there are some advantages to walking. Walking is a preferred form of exercise over running for the following reasons:
Easy on your Joints & Body
Walking is a low impact form of exercise while running is high impact. If you have a sore knee or bad back, the jarring of running on the footpath can make the injury far worse. Shin splints and runner’s knees are two of the injury risks of regular running. If you have been sedentary for some time, walking is less likely to cause any damage compared to running.
Less Daunting to Get Started
Telling yourself you need to push yourself hard and run every day can be enough to keep some people cowering underneath the doona. If you know you’re only going for a walk, it’s less daunting, and for some people more enjoyable, so they get going.
Unless it’s a hot day, many people can walk without changing into exercise clothes. They can walk at lunchtime in their work attire and return to their desk without needing a shower. Going for a run can leave them reaching for the soap and towel.
Good Walking Technique
To get the most out of your walk and to avoid injury, there is a right way to walk. The correct walking technique will allow you to walk faster and longer. The right walking posture means you can take deep breaths for more energy.
Head – hold your head up high. Look forward rather than at the ground, so you don’t put stress on your upper back and neck. Check for obstacles by focusing a few metres ahead.
Back – keep it straight rather than arched forward or backwards. Walking tall stops backaches and helps with your breathing.
Arms – allow them to swing freely, bent slightly at the elbow. Reduce tension by keeping your shoulders relaxed and low, not pulled up towards your ears.
Stomach – hold in your stomach muscles slightly, so your belly doesn’t stick out and try not to tuck your tailbone under.
Feet – roll your feet from heel to toe with each step. Don’t land heavily with a flat foot or a long stride that isn’t natural. A smooth stride will reduce the risk of injury.
Walking with Friends
There are multiple benefits to make your walking social. If you organise to walk with a neighbour, friend or partner, you are less likely to skip your walking habit because you won’t want to let down your exercise buddy.
Walking and talking helps you stay connected and has mental health benefits. If you don’t interact with people because you work or live alone, a regular date with a walking partner gives you significant social interaction time.
Track your Progress
There is nothing more satisfying than setting yourself a goal and checking on your progress.
Keep a note of how many days you walk without breaking the chain. It can be satisfying to look back and see how you have made walking a part of your daily routine.
If you are walking for weight loss, check on your progress and give yourself a boost to keep you motivated.
Use a fitness tracker or app on your phone to track the number of steps you walk each day or note it in an exercise journal. Gradually increase your steps and distance for more health benefits. If you aren’t sure if you can commit to 30 minutes a day, break it up into several five or 10 minute walks throughout the day. Most importantly, if you don’t walk one or two days, get back on track and start walking again.
Get a Health Check Before Starting Any New Exercise
Walking every day is a safe activity for most people, but see your doctor before starting any new exercise if you are overweight or haven’t exercised in a long time.