Health Benefits of Walking

July 21, 2022

Walking can do more than get you from point A to point B. This classic activity can
improve your heart health, blood sugar and more. Plus, we include tips on how to get
more out of your walks.
It's convenient. It's free. And it comes with a wealth of benefits. Don't underestimate
the power of America's favorite physical activity—walking! All you have to do is lace
up and head out the door. No gym or fancy equipment necessary. Witness some of
the latest evidence for these benefits of walking.

Health Benefits of Walking
There are several reasons why walking can be a great form of physical activity. Here
are a few of the specific health benefits of walking.

1. Improve Blood Sugar
A short jaunt around the block after you eat could help keep your blood sugar steady,
especially if you have type 2 diabetes, according to research published in the
journal Diabetologia. When adults with the condition walked for 10 minutes
following every meal, they lowered their blood sugar 12 percent more, on average,
than when they took a single 30-minute stroll each day. "Walking uses large muscles
in your legs and torso-which require a lot of energy," explains Andrew Reynolds,
Ph.D., lead study author and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago in New
Zealand. "To get that energy, those muscles remove sugar from circulation and your
blood sugar goes down." He adds that after-meal walks may also help prevent
diabetes in the first place.

2. Help Your Heart

You don't need crazy-hard cardio to strengthen your heart. A review of data from
more than 130,000 women, published in the Journal of the American College of
Cardiology, found that those who walked at least 30 minutes a day significantly
lowered their risk of heart failure. Other research has found that exercisers—and most
of them were walkers-reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number) by an average
of nearly 9 mmHg, an improvement similar to that from medication, according to a
meta-analysis in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Getting at least 150 minutes
of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking, each week is the benchmark for
heart benefits, according to the American Heart Association.

3. Reduce Dementia Risk
Research has shown that those who walk regularly (think: 3 to 5 times per week for 30
to 40 minutes) had significantly lower risk of dementia than those who didn't partake
in aerobic exercise. This could be because walking helps improve blood flow which
can help improve cognition, but more research is needed to explain walking's
impressive brain-healthy benefits. Walking is an easy way to add more aerobic
exercise to your day, which can help strengthen your body and mind in the long run.

4. Promote Weight Loss
While it can sometimes get overlooked, walking is a great way to get more exercise
and can help you lose weight. Finding ways to up your physical activity is key when
trying to lose weight.

5. Boost Mood
Last but certainly not least, regular exercise like walking can help to boost your
mood—immediately and in the long term. Plus, getting outside for a walk can help
you spend more time in nature, which has proven benefits for your mental health and
can help you reduce stress.

5 Ways to Get More Out of Your
Spending too much time sitting can lead to numerous health woes. But here's an easy
fix: After an hour of sitting, walk around for two minutes. It could reduce your risk of
early death by 33 percent, according to a study published in the Clinical Journal of the
American Society of Nephrology. Here are some more expert tips on how to get more
out of your walks, solo or with a walking buddy.

1. Go Off-Road
Moving your walks to varied terrain like grass or dirt requires you to use different
muscles that can strengthen your core and improve balance, something you don't get
from walking on asphalt, explains Libby Richards, Ph.D., RN, an associate professor
at the Purdue University School of Nursing. Choosing a route with some gradual hills
can amp up the challenge even more.

2. Add Some Weights
Make your walk more challenging by adding a weighted vest (or wear a backpack) to
increase the load your body is carrying. Add no more than 5% of your body weight to
start and spend only a few minutes walking in it at a time until your body gets used to
it, Richards says.

3. Go Fast and Slow
Dave McGovern, 15-time U.S. Champion race walker and author of The
Complete Guide to Competitive Walking (buy it: $18.95, barnesandnoble.com) likes
doing "turns and straights" on a school track, where you alternate between easy
strolling on the turns and full-tilt walking sprints on the straightaways.

4. Work on Form
Perfecting your gait and posture will inherently help you move faster, McGovern says.
Follow these three tips: Take shorter, faster steps. Land on your heels and roll all the
way through the tips of your toes. And, finally, be sure to bend your arms at 90-degree
angles, vigorously driving them behind your body while keeping the arm swings short
in front of the body.

5. Up Your Walk Time
A slower, longer workout can be just as effective as a faster, shorter one. And hey, it
means more time to chitchat too if you're walking with a friend.