The Benefits of Walking

Looking to get started on an exercise routine? The most sensible—and accessible—strategy is to hoof it. The many benefits of walking make it our most popular physical activity.

benefits of walking

The benefits of walking at any age are well-documented: lower blood pressure, reduced stress, bone and joint health, and reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, and other afflictions.

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Did you know that walking for just one minute can extend your life by one and a half to two minutes? That’s what the American College of Sports Medicine says about the benefits of walking. Got 20 to 25 minutes a week? You can extend your life by years. You can even cut your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by half. Just by walking. And if you walk 20 minutes a day, you’ll burn off seven pounds of body fat per year.

Walking is a low-impact, inexpensive exercise that brings a multitude of health benefits. It requires no skill. All you have to do is put on a pair of good walking shoes (good inner cushioning, light weight, flexible sole), find a safe place to walk, and get moving.

While running does burn more calories, the difference may surprise you. According to Livestrong.com, you can calculate the number of calories burned while walking one mile by multiplying your weight by 0.53. Running that mile? Multiply by 0.75. So, a 120-pound person walking one mile will burn 63.6 calories. If that person ran the mile instead, it would be 90 calories. That’s not a huge difference, if you’re covering less than five miles a day (132 calories in five miles).

How Walking Helps You

benefits of walking

Walking is your most accessible and easiest-to-accomplish exercise. And the benefits of walking make it worth getting out (or onto a treadmill or into a gym with a running track—or even into a shopping mall) on a regular basis.

The benefits of walking go far beyond weight loss. Cardiovascular health can improve, too. And it doesn’t take long to see the results.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Binghamton found that moderately intensive walking improves cardiovascular risk factors in the short term. The researchers tracked a test group’s walking and physical responses over a 10-week period. They measured the participants at the five-week point and then asked them to increase their efforts by 10 percent over the following five weeks. At 10 weeks, the researchers noted positive changes in cardiovascular health.

“We know walking is an excellent form of exercise, but research has been mixed on how successful a walking program can be in changing biological markers such as cholesterol, weight, blood pressure,” said Pamela Stewart Fahs, associate dean and professor at the Binghamton University Decker School of Nursing, in a recent report published at ScienceDaily.com.

Walking Benefits

There’s more, too. Besides weight loss, the established physical benefits of walking at a moderate pace (about three miles per hour) include:

The benefits of walking extend to mental perks as well. Walking increases the release of mood-enhancing endorphins, including serotonin, which is important for combating depression. Walking can relieve stress, decrease depression, increase creativity, and elevate the walker’s mood. There’s a reason why an angry person is often told to “Walk it off!

No Time? No Money? No Excuse

Reaping the benefits of walking doesn’t have to take a lot of time. While most experts recommend walking 30 minutes a day five days a week, it’s not cast in stone. The benefits of walking can shine through with as little as 10 minutes of walking a day.

benefits of walking

Got a dog? Then you’re probably already involved in a routine that helps your health—and that your pet enjoys.

Want to do that recommended 30 minutes, but don’t have the time? Try 10 minutes three times a day. It’s no wonder the Centers for Disease Control calls walking the “most popular aerobic physical activity.”

So, get up and go for a walk! You can go alone, if you have a safe place to do it, but it’s more fun if you find a two-legged or four-legged friend to join you. Best of all, the benefits of walking extend way beyond getting some fresh air and sunshine.

See also the following University Health News posts:


Originally published in February 2017 and updated.

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Comments
  • Charles M.

    I’m a great fan of walking and can certainly feel the health benefits of walking in my own life. However, this article contradicts itself. In the last paragraph under “How Walking Helps You” an expert is quoted as saying the research is mixed (inconclusive?) regarding cholesterol, weight, and blood pressure. Then in the very next paragraph, decreased cholesterol and lower blood pressure are listed as “established” benefits. So, I’m confused as to whether these benefits are scientifically established or not. In other regards, this is an excellent article.

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