Brisk walking, as in, putting some effort in it, is one of the safest, simplest (and cheapest) workouts you can do. All you need is a comfortable pair of walking shoes and a place to roam freely. And with so many workouts trending out there today – including Pilates, CrossFit, and Acro Yoga – it can be really challenging to find a workout that doesn’t make you want to just stay home!
Walking is one of the most accessible forms of physical activity that you can do just about anywhere. It’s also super popular! In fact, a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that more adults make a brisk walk their workout than ever before. The report showed that in just five years, (between 2005 and 2010) the number of Americans who walked for 10 minutes or more, at least once a week went from 56% to 62% – an increase of almost 20 million people!(1)
So, what’s got so many people excited about walking as a workout?
Well, here are just 5 amazing benefits of brisk walking:
1. Physical Fitness.
Walking is a low-intensity workout that you can do for as long as you want to, no matter what your fitness level is. Even at a slow pace, using walking as your workout allows you to target areas including your core, arms, legs, glutes, and your back all at the same time. Not only that, but as you walk you will also be able to improve your flexibility and increase your body’s overall strength. Walking is also an equipment-free workout anyone can do to boost their fitness level and endurance capacity.
2. Weight Loss.
Walking is an important part of everyday physical activity, making it a simple way to burn calories. And health professionals know that adding just 30 minutes of brisk walking to your day could help you burn up to 150 calories. That means in just one week you could burn 500 calories (about one pound of fat).(2)
One study on walking as a workout showed that women who took 3 brisk walks each week (plus two longer, moderately paced walks) lost 5 times more belly fat than those who walked at a slower pace 5 days a week, even though both groups of walkers burned the same number of calories: 400 per workout. What’s more, the participants who sped up their walking workout also lost about 2 inches from their waistlines, plus 3 times more fat around their thighs for a total of 4 times as much total body fat loss overall (about 8 pounds in 16 weeks) – all without dieting!(3)
3. Cardiovascular Health.
For people concerned about maintaining a healthy heart, brisk walking may be just the right workout. One study showed that developing a walking community with pedometers to count steps was able to reduce select cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.(4)
In another study published in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, walking might lower risk factors associated with heart-related issues as much as a running workout.(5) This is great news for people who don’t want an intense workout, but would like to gain the health benefits of regular, low-intensity exercise.
One final study including over 500 ambulatory clinic patients being treated for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) reported that walking for at least 3–6 km/day, could potentially reduce the rate of hospitalizations for COPD patients.(6)
4. Good Mood.
Walking is one of the easiest ways to get in a good mood. Researchers have found that people who did a walking intervention for 60 minutes 3 times a week, for 12 weeks reported improvements in their mood and decreased anxiety. This was attributed to an increase of a neurotransmitter of the central nervous system known as GABA, that inhibits excitatory responses in the brain.(7)
Another study showed that the benefits of walking also include a significant reduction in depressive symptoms of anxiety and self-concept.(8)
5. A Healthy Pregnancy.
Walking is a wonderful workout for expecting mothers, especially those who have already lead an active lifestyle before getting pregnant. If you are a mother-to-be, and have no prior medical concerns, you may want to consider the many benefits of walking to boost your circulation and increase your strength as your belly grows. Just remember that if you take your walking workout outside to stay hydrated with plenty of water. And always wear broad-spectrum sunscreen.
A How-To Guide to Your Next Walking Workout
With so many health benefits of walking as a workout, you may be inspired to make it part of your daily fitness regimen! If so, here is a simple how-to guide to get things started:
1. On Your Mark, Get Set.
Sometimes the hardest part about taking a walk is lacing up your walking shoes. OK… it’s always the hardest part. So, make it easy on yourself, and just get started. Once you have your shoes on, it’s simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.
2. Take it Step by Step.
When you have your shoes on, and you are out the door, you may be thinking about how many miles you need to go, how many steps are on your pedometer, or if you are going to make it for the 30 minutes you’ve set on your fitness tracker. UGH!
Don’t bother with those thoughts. Just take it one step at a time, and aim to reach small attainable goals each time you head out for a walk. That’s the best way to make your walk enjoyable, and reach your larger goal over time.
3. Take a Friend.
The best walks include workout buddies. And even if you prefer to walk alone, you can always bring along a four-legged partner. Studies have shown that having an exercise companion boosts performance as well as feelings of self-control. Not only that, but participants reported that having a workout buddy was instrumental for emotional, and social support. Participants also reported a better ability to self-regulate, to deliver better exercise efficacy.(9)
Walking is the ideal low-intensity workout for everyone. Even if you have health concerns, walking may help to protect against additional risk factors for further complications, and even more serious illnesses. Plus, it’s a fun, and healthy way to get fit.
So, head out to your favorite shoe store, and grab the best pair of walking shoes you can find… because tomorrow is a great day to take a walk!
For more health and fitness news, keep reading:
1. More people walk to better health. United States centers for disease control and prevention.
2. Can I lose weight if my only exercise is walking?
3. Brian A. Irving, Ph.D., Christopher K. Davis, M.D., Ph.D. Effect of exercise training intensity on abdominal visceral fat and body composition. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2009 Nov 1.
4. Marigliano, Elisabeth; Fahs, Pamela Stewart. Walking for Heart Health: A Study of Adult Women in Rural New York.
5. Walking can lower risk of heart-related conditions as much as running. April 04, 2013.
6. Influence of changes in physical activity on frequency of hospitalization in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
7. Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Nov; 16(11): 1145–1152.
8. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2004; 6(3): 104–111.
9. Received social support and exercising: An intervention study to test the enabling hypothesis.