Intense workouts like running and HIIT often steal the spotlight when people think about forms of exercise that come with a lot of physical and mental health benefits. But walking has more than 20 benefits, including everything from lowering your body fat percentage to toning your abs, easing lower back pain and reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Walking also helps improve your mood, boost endorphins, reduce fatigue and lower your stress hormones. What's more, it's absolutely free and and you don't need a lot of time: Only 15 to 40 minutes a day five days a week can help improve your health.
To help remind you of all the amazing reasons you should be walking, the LIVESTRONG.com team created this printable and pinnable infographic:
The Health Benefits of Walking
1. Linked to Lower Rates of Depression
Higher levels of physical activity — like walking for an hour — has been linked to lower rates of depression, according to research published in the January 2019 issue of JAMA Psychiatry.
2. Can Help Reduce Stress
Take your walking into the great outdoors for just 20 minutes, and you'll decreases the hormone cortisol, helping you feel less stressed, according to an April 2019 study published in Frontiers in Psychology.
3. Associated With Longer Life Expectancy
Staying physically active has been tied to a longer life, according to a June 2019 study from The BMJ. And brisk walkers in particular have been linked to increased life expectancy, according to a June 2019 study from the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
4. Helps Keep Your Knees Healthy and Pain-Free
Walking is low-impact, meaning it's easier on your joints (especially your knees) than a high-impact activity like running. Just one hour a week can help reduce the liklihood of experiencing knee problems, according to a May 2019 study from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
And walking backwards can help reduce knee pain once it starts, according to an April 2019 study from BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. Just make sure you have a good pair of supportive walking shoes (see below for more).
5. May Lower the Risk of Hip Fractures
A 2014 study from the American Journal of Public Health states, "Walking is a relatively safe and easy activity for hip fracture prevention." And an older study (2002) from Brigham and Women's Hospital of post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40 percent.
6. Might Lower the Risk and Severity of a Stroke
The more you walk, the lower your risk of stroke, according to Harvard Medical School. And frequent walking has also been linked to less severe strokes if they do occur, according to an October 2018 study from Neurology.
7. Linked to Lower Rates of Cardiovascular Disease
The American Heart Association advocates for walking as part of a strategy for reducing the risk of heart disease. And an August 2017 study from the European Heart Journal found that brisk walkers were less likely to die from heart disease than slower walkers.
8. Associated With Fewer and Less Severe Colds
A May 2017 study from PLoS One found that those who were less active reported more sick days at work. Plus, Harvard Medical School reports that those who are more active are sick for a shorter amount of time and with less severe symptoms.
9. Linked to Lower Blood Pressure
People who took about 12,000 steps a day over the course of six months improved both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure, according to a June 2013 study from the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine.
10. Associated With Lower Levels of Anxiety
When combined with a bit of moving meditation, walking can help boost your mental health and ease anxiety, according to a July 2018 study from Health Promotion Perspectives.
11. Helps Soothe Anger
According to that same Health Promotion Perspectives study mentioned above, participants who took that 10-minute walk also reported feeling less angry afterward.
12. Helps Fight Fatigue and Boost Energy
Getting up from your desk every 30 minutes for an easy walk can keep your energy up throughout the day, according to a February 2016 study in BMJ Open.
13. Associated With Reduced Risk of Glaucoma
"People who are physically active appear to have a 73 percent lower risk of developing glaucoma," according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology and research presented at their 2017 annual meeting.
14. Linked to Lower Rates and Slower Progression of Alzheimer's
Increased physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's by a 2017 study from The Lancet. It's also been linked to stabilizing cognitive functioning in those already with Alzheimer's disease, according to a 2014 study from the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics.
15. Can Help Ease Lower Back Pain
A 2017 review published in Disability and Rehabilitation concluded that walking is "valuable in the treatment of individuals with chronic lower back pain."
16. Associated With Better Brain Health
A September 2019 study published in Scientific Reports found that people with a higher walking endurance also had better cognitive performance.
17. May Help Improve Cholesterol Levels
People who walk regularly have healthier cholesterol levels, according to a 2013 study in Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
18. Can Help With Weight Management
Walking can burn between 85 and 135 calories per mile, depending on your weight, according to Harvard Medical School. Along with a healthy diet and exercise regimen, this can help you either maintain or lose weight.
Read more: 6 Ways to Burn More Calories by Walking
19. Linked to Lower Rates of Type 2 Diabetes
To help prevent diabetes a November 2012 article in Frontiers in Endocrinology advocates for walking more than 7,500 steps a day, of which more than 3,000 steps (representing at least 30 min) should be taken at a cadence greater than 100 steps per minute. And a 2013 study in Diabetes Care found that 15-minute after-meal walks helped lower blood sugar levels.
20. Can Help You Sleep Better
Getting into a good walking routine can help improve sleep duration and quality, according to a 2016 study in BMJ Open.
Tips to Walk More Throughout Your Day
- At work, go outside during your lunch break and walk for 15 to 40 minutes. Or ask your co-workers to take walking meetings.
- At home, make walking your catch-up time with your family. Walk your dog every night also counts. Both you and Fido need the exercise!
- Tell yourself to walk just a bit more. Each extra 10 minutes you walk at a decent pace adds about 1,000 steps or more.
- Get yourself a pedometer or download a free mobile app such as Every Body Walk!, RunKeeper, Strava or MapMyWalk.
Read more: 35 Creative Ways to Reach 10,000 Steps a Day
What Do I Need to Start Walking?
It's a great idea to invest in a pair of supportive shoes designed primarily for walking. Cross-training and running shoes are not designed for walking. As The Walking Site points out, "A walker's foot hits heel first and then rolls gradually from heel-to-toe. So, you will need a flexible sole and more bend in the toe than a runner. You should be able to twist and bend the toe area."
And that's it! Lace up your shoes and get walking.