In fitness, we tend to underrate the basics: getting enough water, sleeping enough hours, and yes, walking enough steps. As simple as it is, walking — which requires no training or special equipment — can have a big impact on your mind and body.

Brisk walking counts as cardio, but you don’t have to pick up the pace to reap many of the benefits of walking. Why is walking important?

“It’s what we’re meant to do!” says Mary Beth Rockwell, CPT, CNC, CES.. “Walking is a very effective, low-impact, no-fuss form of exercise.” Here’s what you need to know about the potential health benefits of walking.

1. It Can Help You Lose or Maintain Weight

Don’t dismiss the calories burned by walking. Ambling at average speed, a 150-pound person can burn 83 calories per mile. Feeling energized? Crank it up to a brisk pace with a slight grade to scorch 120 calories over the same distance.

Weight loss and fat loss basically come down to energy expended versus energy consumed, and walking can actually help manage the amount of calories you consume. Participants in one study walked briskly for an hour, but didn’t eat more, feel hungrier, or produce more of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

2. It Can Be a Good Alternative to Running


“Running may garner the more glamorous headlines, but it’s not for everyone,” according to Rockwell. “If you’re obese or have hip or knee pain, you may need to avoid the pounding aspect of running.”

That’s where walking comes in. Since walking is less strenuous and lower-impact than running, Rockwell says, “you can safely reap the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise while walking, even if you aren’t a good candidate for running.”

3. It May Help You Sleep Better

Speaking of sleep, walking may help with that, too. Participants in a 2019 study who increased their steps through daily walking reported higher-quality sleep than their peers who didn’t.

4. It Can Improve Mood


“Studies show that walking may also help you overcome feelings of despair and anxious feelings,” Rockwell notes. But even if you don’t struggle with those emotions, this moderate activity can help you more effectively deal with stress if you engage in it mindfully.

And get outdoors if you can. There are plenty of benefits to treadmill walking, but mood improvement is one of the big benefits of walking outside, research suggests.

5. It Promotes Cardiovascular Health

Here’s one of the big benefits of walking every day: It’s good for your heart. In fact, it may be just as beneficial to cardiovascular health as running, according to research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. So the more you walk, the greater the benefit.

6. It May Help Support Bone Health

“Walking is a low-impact, weight-bearing exercise, helping your bones safely grow stronger,” Rockwell explains, adding that this benefit grows increasingly important as you age.

7. It’s Easy to Scale Up or Down


As mentioned above, a moderate walk can improve a flagging mood. But if you’re feeling powerful, you can easily ramp up your effort and calorie burn by increasing speed or tackling some hills or stairs. Start with these two power walking routines.

8. It May Help Improve Digestive Health

Post-meal walks have been shown to promote regular gastric emptying time. For all of you non-gastroenterologists, that’s the period during which food moves from your stomach to your small intestine, which is associated with a healthier gut.

9. It May Promote Healthy Blood Sugar

It’s not necessary to get all your daily walking in one session. In fact, short walks that break up bouts of sitting can have a positive impact on blood sugar. Rockwell says taking multiple smaller, brisk walks a day is a great way to chip away at the Department of Health and Human Services’ recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

10. It May Boost Brain Health

Evidence suggests walking may help you build a healthier body and mind. Participants who completed mental exercises and a walking-based exercise program for 12 weeks showed improvements in memory and executive functioning, one study found.

Other research has also found that walking may promote more gray matter. (Gray matter is associated with brain health and a lower risk of cognitive impairment.) Older adults who walked the most had the biggest increases in gray matter in this study.

11. It May Increase Creative Thinking


Got writer’s block? Take a stroll. Walking boosted the creativity of 81 percent of the participants in one study. While the “free flow of ideas” the researchers observed during the walk may lead to your a-ha! moment, they also noted a residual creativity boost that continued even after the participants had sat back down following their walk.

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