Walking doesn't always get the respect it deserves. Here are some of the unsung benefits that will motivate you to lace up your shoes.
With so many workout options, it might seem like the simple act of walking is bit ho-hum, or even less effective than other types of exercise.
But science and medical experts say otherwise.
Lacing up for a brisk daily walk has been shown to benefit every part of your body, says strength and conditioning coach Rocky Snyder, C.S.C.S., author of the strength-training guide Return to Center.
According to the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association (AHA), regular walking helps older adults lower blood pressure and prevent such conditions as:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
One 2020 Scientific Reports study even found that a daily walk reduced pneumonia-related risks in older adults. This is because walking also helps strengthen and support your lungs.
And researchers in a 2022 Journal of Neuroscience study found that people in their 80s who walked regularly maintained vital immune cells. These cells helped them hang onto memory and processing skills, reducing the risk of dementia.
Plus, it’s low impact, which means it has a lower risk of injury than other workouts.
No wonder the AHA says walking is the most popular form of exercise!
Clearly, there’s no debate about whether walking is good for you.
But if you're still lacking the motivation to head out, consider tapping into walking's other superpowers. We talked to top fitness experts to learn their favorite reasons to go for a walk that have nothing to do with your heart health.
Feel free to make these reasons your own!
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Reason # 1: You Will Be in a Better Mood
Walking boosts your physical and mental health at the same time. People who exercise generally have lower rates of anxiety and depression than those who are more sedentary, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
"Walking has been shown to improve a person's mood by producing serotonin," Snyder says. "That is the key hormone in stabilizing our mood and making us feel happy."
And it doesn’t take long to reap these benefits. One 2021 study on older adults found that just six minutes of walking for three days in a row resulted in major boosts in energy and mood. A short walk also reduced tension and fatigue. The findings were published in the Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy.
If you speed up your pace, your mood could get even better. Research on nearly 5,000 adults over age 65 found that those who walked at a brisk pace had better mental health than those who did light leisure walking. The 2021 study was published in Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine.
Once you’re walking regularly, it’s likely you’ll start to feel calmer, happier, more energetic, and more focused, says Snyder.
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Reason #2: You Might Have that Genius Idea
Walking is a great way to boost your imagination, says Mike Matthews, C.P.T., author of The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation.
In one study published by the APA, a team of Stanford University researchers found that walking can boost creativity by 60 percent. For the study, researchers asked 176 adults to think of new uses for everyday objects. Those who were walking gave more creative responses than those who were sitting. And that creative spark lasted for a period after the walk ended.
Walking indoors and outdoors boosted creativity about the same amount, leading researchers to believe walking itself — not where you walk — is what matters.
Being creative doesn’t just lead to awesome ideas. Creativity can also improve your physical and mental health, according to a report by the World Health Organization that looked at more than 3,000 studies on the topic. Research shows flexing your creative muscles can help prevent conditions such as dementia and depression.
Reason #3: It Could Be the Beginning of a Brand New Habit
It's easy to say you're going to start going to the gym. It's tougher to get yourself to do it.
That's where walking comes in, Matthews says. Sticking with one habit makes it easy to build upon later.
“Most people have at least a phone call or two to make every day,” Matthews says. “If you save them for a walk, it makes it easier to stack those habits.”
B.J. Fogg, a Stanford University researcher, dives into the psychology of habit-making in his 2020 book, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. He writes that big behavioral changes generally aren’t sustainable: They require too much effort and motivation for people to keep up with them.
Instead, you should start with the basics. Walking is free, low-impact, and you've already been doing it your whole life. The AHA praises walking for being easy to stick with.
Walking is also easy to modify. For example, no one is telling you how far or how fast to go. You get to pick the speed, incline, intensity, and distance that feels right for you.
Recommended reading: Take the Power Your Walk Challenge
Whether you want to chase down a specific goal - like participating in a 5K- or simply want to become more physically active, building a walking habit is a great place to start. The benefits multiply the faster, farther and more frequently you walk, according to Mayo Clinic.
There's nothing wrong with trying the latest workout trends, Matthews adds. After all, keeping exercise fresh can be motivating. But make sure you're not overlooking one of the easiest, most accessible, and effective ways to improve your health.
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