Taking control of your health could be as simple as walking 40 minutes a day. This type of aerobic exercise, performed consistently throughout the week, offers numerous benefits. Whether you're looking for improved heart health, better sleep, a mood boost, weight loss or other health benefits, a daily walk could be the path to greater health.
Walking 40 minutes a day burns calories, helps manage your weight, bolsters your immune system, improves your mood, helps reduce the risk of depression, regulates blood sugar and enhances sleep.
How Much Should You Walk Each Day?
To meet the minimum Physical Activity Guidelines recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, you should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity. That works out to about 20 minutes a day. You can double that to 300 minutes a week (40 minutes a day) for more calorie-burning benefits.
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Short on time? Increase the intensity level of your daily walk instead of aiming for time. For example, instead of a 40-minute walk, you could power walk, jog or run for 20 or 30 minutes. If you exercise at a higher intensity, you can cut your total exercise time in half and get 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week (10 to 20 minutes a day).
You can also combine moderate and vigorous activity throughout the week to achieve your recommended weekly minutes, or even perform aerobic exercise in shorter segments twice a day. If you're walking 40 minutes a day for weight loss, you might want to experiment with different intensity levels to see what kind of results you can achieve.
Read more: Recommended Amount of Cardio Exercise
Calories Burned Walking for 40 Minutes
Though your exact caloric burn is dependent on a few different factors (like weight, heart rate/intensity and even fitness level), you can roughly estimate the number of calories you'll burn by walking.
For example, 155-pound person burns approximately 200 calories during a 40-minute stroll at 3.5 mph. That number goes up to 222 and almost 250 for 4 mph and 4.5 mph, respectively.
Health Benefits of Walking
As an aerobic exercise, walking is a cardiovascular activity that helps your body in numerous ways. Aside from burning calories, walking can help manage your weight, bolster your immune system, improve your mood, reduce the risk of depression, regulate blood sugar and enhance sleep.
Read more: 20 Reasons to Go for a Walk Right Now
Walking for Better Sleep
Not only does walking 40 minutes a day burn calories and improve overall health, but it may result in better sleep as well. According to the National Sleep Foundation, daily exercise such as walking or biking can enhance the quality of your nightly sleep while also promoting greater alertness during the day.
The time of day when you exercise may also be a factor in your sleep quality. Exercising in the morning or the afternoon raises your body temperature a few degrees. Later in the day, your internal "thermostat" falls back into its normal range. As the body temperature drops down, it can cause drowsiness and help you drift off to sleep.
Evening exercise doesn't necessarily allow adequate time for this temperature change to occur. In fact, it can overstimulate your body and keep you awake past your desired bedtime. As such, although you can break up your walking segments throughout the day, you may wish to complete your daily walking routine by the afternoon.
Read more: 5 Simple Steps to Get the Best Night of Sleep Ever
Walking for Weight Loss
Aerobic exercise, such as walking, can help you stay in shape, too. Walking for weight loss is an attainable goal, as it's a low-impact activity that's easy to incorporate into your day-to-day life. For example, you can add a few extra steps to your walking routine by taking the stairs, parking farther away or walking to the store instead of driving.
In addition to the caloric burn estimates above, you can estimate that walking a mile burns about 100 calories. You can increase the intensity and potentially burn more calories either by walking briskly on an incline or running part of the route.
But walking is only part of the equation. You'll also need to reduce your caloric intake by about 250 to 500 calories a day, making sure to fill your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and whole grains. You may also want to consider adding strength training to your workout routine, as the added muscle can help boost your metabolism.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- Harvard Health Publishing: How Much Cardio Should You Do?
- National Sleep Foundation: How Exercise Impacts Sleep Quality
- Harvard Health Publishing: Exercise Is an All-Natural Treatment to Fight Depression
- Mayo Clinic: Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics
- Asian Journal of Sports Medicine: Effects of a 6-Month Walking Study on Blood Pressure and Cardiorespiratory Fitness in U.S. and Swedish Adults: ASUKI Step Study
- Atherosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Walking versus running for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk reduction.
- BMJ Open: Does subjective sleep quality improve by a walking intervention? A real-world study in a Japanese workplace
- Adipocyte: Increasing muscle mass to improve metabolism