There are many different habits and workouts you can do to improve your life. What about walking, what benefits can you expect?
Walking is a very popular type of activity that can certainly increase your movement intensity to levels considered to be exercise.
Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding walking sessions to your routine can offer you some of the following amazing benefits.
1. Stronger muscles
While walking is a cardio exercise, which means that it mainly focuses on your cardiovascular system, this workout also helps you build and preserve a little muscle in other areas.
Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.
Some of the muscles you work out with walking include:
If you like the idea of building muscle while walking you can carry external weights like a heavy backpack, weighted wristbands, weighted ankle bands, or a weighted vest to increase the amount of muscle mass you gain.
If you are serious about building muscle you do generally want to choose weight lifting exercises or even just more intense cardio workouts over walking.
2. Stronger immune system
Your immune system is a collection of biological processes that protects you from diseases.
You do have to keep in mind that at some point working out can turn into overtraining which can weaken immune function. However, most people don’t come close to this point, especially with a generally less intense exercise like walking.
3. Can help with losing weight
Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.
One way to try to make this happen is by doing a workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Walking can help with weight loss since doing a workout on it generally requires more energy than most of your usual daily activities.
30 minutes of walking at 3 mph (4.8 kmh) can help you burn around 103-178+ calories depending on weight, intensity, and much more. If you want to learn how to burn more calories while walking, how many calories your burn per step, and how many calories you burn with different walking speeds make sure you read the article on how many calories walking burns.
Although the extra calorie burning from walking is often welcome when trying to lose weight, compared to running for example that number is not that big. If you’re serious about burning a lot of extra calories in a short amount of time other workouts than walking can be a better choice.
Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.
4. Improved mood
Most people are not always completely aware of it but the physical health of the human body has a big influence on the mood and thoughts of the individual.
Walking doesn’t just help with this by improving general health. There are inevitably many different reasons involved but one reason why exercises like walking benefit mental health is that they promote the release of endorphins, “feel-good” hormones (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).
Besides the actual physiological changes walking will cause, you will likely also have positive feelings about having done something challenging that’s good for you.
On top of that a few studies found that walking in nature benefits things like mood more compared to doing a similar walk in urban areas (12, 13, 14, 15). That means that walking in nature may have added psychological benefits over doing the same physical effort in an urban area or gym.
One study in particular found that a 3-hour walk in nature evoked higher positive emotional responses and lower negative emotional responses compared to both a sedentary group and a group that did a similar walking workout indoors (16).
5. Improved cardiovascular health
Your cardiovascular system is the circulatory system inside of your body and includes heart and blood vessels. These transport many types of important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.
When you move more intensely your body needs to transport these things, which means using your heart, at a higher rate.
Your heart is a muscle that can be trained by using it more intensely. By doing workouts like walking you can strengthen your cardiovascular system which in turn leads to a wide variety of other benefits (17, 18, 19, 20, 21).
Do keep in mind that muscles can get injured. If you have not done any physical activity in a long time you may want to start out with low-intensity movements and build up from there.
6. Budget-friendly workout
Another potential hurdle for many workouts is the budget required.
Some exercises require expensive equipment starting at a kettlebell or two to at-home workout machines of hundreds or thousands of dollars. Even the investment required for gym subscriptions adds up after a while.
Money put into improving your health is generally a great investment but sometimes you can get the same effects with less. In the case of walking you essentially only need to invest a small amount in a pair of shoes. The budget-friendly aspect can be a great benefit depending on your personal situation.
7. Low-impact workout
If you exercise a lot, or you plan to, potential injuries are a very relevant concern.
Consistency is a big part of working out. The effectiveness of your workout plan will go down drastically if you can’t exercise for 2 weeks every month because of injuries.
Some exercises like running can be rough on body parts like knees and back. Especially if it is the case that you’re carrying around a few extra pounds.
Luckily walking is a low-impact workout, the shocks your body will experience are relatively soft. This is a huge benefit of walking, particularly if you are generally injury-sensitive.
So much so that in a survey of the European Knee Associates walking was one of the five recommended forms of exercise to do within the first 6 weeks after a knee replacement (together with water aerobics, stair climbing, swimming, and static cycling) (22).
8. Improved cognitive function
Another benefit of exercises like walking is that they can help you improve your cognitive function in a few ways. First of all, they can help with the prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (23).
Another way working out benefits cognitive function is by improving brain plasticity (24, 25, 26). Better brain plasticity basically means that you are able to learn things faster, see the connection between things faster, and remember things better.
That means that adding a walking session to your routine can benefit you by improving areas like your academic performance, job performance, and much more.
9. No complicated technique required
Some machines and workouts almost require a university degree before you can use them optimally. For example some kettlebell workouts or something like dancing can be slightly more complicated to get started with.
When trying to stick to an exercise routine you want to be able to start as soon as possible and as few reasons as possible to not work out.
Walking is ideal in this area since you are basically doing a sequence of movements most individuals do regularly, walking.
10. Suited for a busy schedule
Another benefit of walking is that you don’t need to commit a big time block to get in some extra movement. You can go for a small walk in your regular clothes in any 10-minute time block you can find.
One 10-minute walking session is not enough to hit the exercise recommendations but a few of these throughout the day can add up.
This benefit of walking is especially useful if you have trouble finding enough time throughout your day to fit in a workout because of a busy schedule.
11. Improved bone density
This is helpful for avoiding broken bones. Depending on your age you may not be that worried about something like this right now. However, exercising right now can help you avoid broken bones in 40 years. The things you do today have an impact on the future.
The way many parts of your body work is that by challenging them you set in motion processes that strengthen these body parts. The same goes for your bones, by putting pressure on them you make them stronger in the long-term.
Workouts like running can improve bone density even more than walking. Walking in turn is likely better than swimming for bone density since you put more pressure on your bones with walking.
12. Lowers LDL
LDL, also known as low-density lipoproteins, is considered to be “bad” cholesterol since there are negative side effects associated with having high levels of LDL in your blood.
13. Healthier lungs
To move around your body needs oxygen, the more intensely the more oxygen. Your body absorbs oxygen from the air through your lungs.
Improving how well your lungs function leads to benefits like improved exercise performance and getting tired slower.
14. Slows down aging
Most people think of age as the number of days, months, and years that have passed since the day they were born, this is usually referred to as their chronological age. There are also many other ways to measure “age” based on physiological factors (42).
Exercises like walking obviously won’t have an influence on the number of days that have passed since you were born. However, physical activity can slow down the aging in terms of how fast other measurement methods progress (43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48).
In general these other age measurements are more accurate methods than chronological age for assessing risk on age-related diseases. Slowing these down can be a huge benefit for your health.
15. Helps against type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that involves consequences like high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and lack of insulin. These things in turn can have really bad consequences so type 2 diabetes is definitely something you want to avoid.
16. Improves sleep
Good quality and duration sleep are extremely important for your physical health and cognitive function. Unfortunately, many people can do a lot better with both quality and duration.
A lot of the things you do throughout the day influence the quality and duration in some way. One of the things that can benefit sleep a relatively high amount is doing a workout like walking (54, 55, 56).
You do want to keep in mind that exercising too close to bed time can have the reverse effect and mess with your sleep. Make sure you give your body time enough time to calm down after a workout. For most people this comes down to avoiding exercises at least an hour or two before going to sleep.
17. Regulates blood pressure
Your blood pressure is how much pressure the blood circulating in your blood vessels pushes against the walls of these vessels. This measurement is a popular way to determine how healthy your heart is.
Another benefit of working out, and thus walking, is that it can help you regulate blood pressure (57, 58, 59). This happens because of the influence of a variety of consequences you get from walking including a stronger heart, less stress, expected weight loss, and more.
18. Improves coordination and balance
When walking you will challenge your balance and coordination skills to some extent. By doing this frequently you get better at it like with most skills. Many people forget to implement balance training into their workout routine but it is a helpful fitness component.
The benefits of improved coordination and balance don’t just show up in other technical sports. Daily activities as simple as walking the stairs require coordination.
19. You can walk almost anywhere
A downside of many exercises is that they need you to be in a specific location, or use specific equipment that you generally don’t have at home.
This makes it so you often have to drive, cycle, or walk somewhere for a while. Let’s say you exercise twice a week and going to your workout takes 10 minutes to get there and 10 minutes to go back. That’s 40 minutes less free time per week.
This extra transportation also makes it easier to say no to your workout. Being able to be consistent is key for a good workout plan.
However, with walking you don’t have to worry about these things. You can do them as good as anywhere. All you need is a few blocks of free time throughout the day and you can get in a walking session.
While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these benefits than walking, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
Keep in mind that consistency is a big factor for a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If walking is a workout you love, great. If not there are plenty of other exercises to consider that can also offer a lot of benefits.