How Does Walking Change Your Body?

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Walking is not just something you do to move around. Doing this activity more often can also change your body in positive ways.

While most people will definitely love the effects of walking below, you also want to keep in mind that more intense workouts could be even better if your body is able to deal with them.

1. Walking could help you sleep better

The first thing walking, especially outside, can help you with is improving sleep.

There are many theories about exactly what mechanisms cause these improvements in sleep but the main thing to keep in mind is that moving more can help in this area (1, 2, 3).

Additionally, walking can benefit sleep in a more unique way too if you do it outside.

Your body has a variety of internal clocks, also called circadian rhythms. These help you release the right hormones at the right times for better health.

These rhythms are influenced by a few factors. Something that can positively influence these circadian clocks is exposure to sunlight (to safe extents) (4).

To get the most out of this extra benefit of walking, you would do it in the morning. This is the point in the day where sunlight exposure has a big positive impact on sleep.

Since the quality and duration of sleep change your body in so many other ways, this effect of walking is definitely valuable.

People sleeping

2. You could see some weight loss

Since most people spend a lot of time sitting down, walking tends to be more intense than typical daily activities. In turn, these more intense movements use up more energy. This energy can be measured in calories.

A rough estimation is that a 155-pound individual burns around 128 calories when walking at 3 mph (4.8 kmh) for 30 minutes.

The reason why these numbers are important is that body fat is basically stored energy (= calories). Excess body fat tends to cause negative effects on human health so many people are at least trying to control their weight.

By using up more energy than usual with walking, you could see some weight loss.

Something to keep in mind is that there are more effective alternatives for this type of transformation too. To lose one pound of body fat (+-3500 calories), the person above would have to spend around 820 minutes walking.

Additionally, other lifestyle areas like nutrition play a big role in weight loss too. You could walk a lot and still gain weight if your other habits are suboptimal.

3. Your brain could become or stay faster

The changes you can get from walking are not just limited to outside appearances. There are a variety of positive effects on your mental health too.

One of these is that walking can help you improve or preserve your cognitive function in a few ways.

First of all, walking and working out in general seem to prevent the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (5). This is already a good indication that there will be other benefits that may not stand out as much at first.

Additionally, research suggests exercise can improve brain plasticity (6, 7, 8). In turn, this can help you learn things more quickly, see patterns more easily, and improve your memory.

One study with 67 individuals divided the participants into three groups.

The first group sat for 8 hours, group two sat for 30 minutes, walked for 30 minutes at moderate intensity, and then sat for 6 hours, and the last group walked for short sessions throughout the 8 hours.

They measured that the groups that walked performed better on cognitive tests than the sitting group (9).

Two women walking

4. Walking could improve leg endurance

Walking, even the sport version, is typically not enough to actually grow and tone muscles. For this goal, you likely need more of a challenge, potentially with extra weights.

That being said, using your muscles more intensely than usual can still offer benefits.

More specifically, walking can positively change the muscle endurance in leg muscles like your glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), quadriceps (front thighs), calves, and hip flexors (between thigh and hips).

The first positive effect of this is that longer walking sessions may feel easier and easier.

However, even in your regular daily life, better leg muscle endurance could make climbing stairs, walking around, and standing up feel easier.

If you are somewhat fitter and like the idea of improving leg muscle endurance, you could even consider walking with a weighted vest.

5. Your heart and lung capacity may change positively

Walking is mainly a cardiovascular workout which means it will mostly challenge your heart and lungs. These body parts transport nutrients, oxygen, and waste when needed.

Similar to other body parts, you can strengthen your cardiovascular system by challenging it to safe extents, providing your body with enough nutrients, and resting enough.

The same goes for walking. This activity can positively change the capacity of your heart and lungs.

In turn, this leads to a variety of other benefits which include reducing the risk of certain conditions (10, 11, 12).

This area is another one where a good weighted vest for walking can increase your progress. Do make sure you don’t overdo it either.

Fit person walking uphill

6. Walking could improve your mood

It can be easy to forget but the health of your body can have a big impact on your mood. Since walking can help your overall health in a variety of ways, it can also improve your mood.

Besides just providing better overall health, exercises like walking can also promote the release of endorphins. These are so-called “feel-good hormones” because it looks like they improve mood (13, 14, 15).

Walking also potentially has two more unique benefits. While you can also walk on a treadmill, doing this activity can also increase sun exposure which can potentially improve mood (16).

Additionally, if you have the ability to walk in nature, this can benefit your mood even more compared to something like jumping rope indoors (17).

Lastly, you may also just feel proud about doing something that may feel challenging right now but benefits your health in the long term.

7. Your balance and coordination may improve

Nobody is born with the balance and coordination to walk or do handstands. Balance and coordination are skills that can be improved by challenging yourself to safe extents in these areas.

Walking is definitely not the most challenging activity when it comes to these things. However, it could still change your balance and body coordination.

Especially if you don’t train these things often and walk on uneven surfaces.

In turn, better balance and coordination can help you stay more balanced in daily activities like walking the stairs and help you avoid missteps.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.