You’re probably spending a lot more time at home these days due to coronavirus. That means you’re likely sitting more than usual, binge-watching your favorite shows or scrolling through your phone. To break these sedentary habits, it’s a good idea to get out and go for a walk. Walking is a low-key exercise that brings a number of health benefits.
“Now, more than ever, it’s so important to find a way to get moving,” says Ralph Navarrete, a marathon runner, and running and fitness coach at Formula Running Center. Getting in the habit of walking is simple, but not always easy, he adds, “The thought of getting up from your comfortable position can be mentally draining in itself, but walking is an activity that has been proven consistently to have physical and mental benefits.”
The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of the two. But, Navarrete says any amount of walking is good for you.
“You have to take into account everything around you and all of your habits—sleep, nutrition, and physical activity,” he explains. “The keys to seeing benefits are identifying what you’re trying to achieve, whether it’s general physical health or a mental break, and what it’ll take to get there.”
Walking is an easily accessible, affordable exercise that you can do just about anywhere. Plus, it’s free. There are also numerous mental and physical health benefits of walking.
15 Benefits of Walking
1. Walking boosts cardio endurance
Regular walks will improve your cardiovascular endurance, Navarrete says. So, you’ll easily progress to more rigorous physical activity, like running. “As a runner, I use walking breaks during interval workouts to allow the body to recover between more strenuous periods of running,” he explains.
2. It lowers blood pressure
“Walking can have an immediate positive effect on blood pressure,” saysJanet Bezner, PT, DPT, PhD, FAPTA, spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association, and national board-certified health and wellness coach. According to Cleveland Clinic, people who walk regularly tend to have lower instances of heart attacks and stroke, lower blood pressure and higher levels of healthy cholesterol.
3. Walking eliminates stiffness and joint pain
Walking gets the whole body moving, which increases blood flow, Navarete says, “As I’ve been working from home since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been sitting at my desk more, so walking has helped reduce the stiffness in my lower back and soreness in my calves.”
Research has also shown that walking protects the joints, which could keep you from developing arthritis, according toHarvard Medical School. And, if you do get arthritis, walking may help relieve the pain.
4. Walking promotes brain health
Walking is good for your brain, too: It can reduce instances of dementia and lower your risk for Alzheimer’s. Bezner says, “Your mental processing speed is improved, so you can just respond more quickly, think better, your memory is better, executive functions improve. Executive function would include mood and just the ability to be mindful and to know how to respond in the moment.”
5. It reduces the risk for certain cancers
Physical activity has been linked to cancer prevention, Bezner explains. Specifically, walking could lower the risk for bladder, breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, kidney, lung and stomach cancers. So, that’s a good reason to get moving.
6. You’ll see improved bone health
Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, meaning you’re up on your feet, moving and working against gravity. That helps improve bone health, Bezner says, which is something that’s important as you age since bones get weaker as you grow older. Walking also improves balance and coordination, and helps protect you against osteoporosis.
With the pandemic, working from home, taking care of kids, virtual learning and everything else going on today, it’s easy to neglect yourself. Navarrete says talking time to walk lets you step away from distractions at home and practice self care. “You can go for a walk and finally listen to that audiobook, podcast, or new Taylor Swift album you’ve been meaning to play,” he adds.
8. It will help you sleep
Sleep is something we all need more of, and walking helps boost sleep hormones, like melatonin. “If you went out and walked today, you would likely see improvement in your sleep tonight,” Bezner adds. “So, it’s pretty immediate.”
Walking will also improve your sleep quality and help you stay energized when you’re awake, according to Cleveland Clinic.
9. Walking will help you maintain a healthy weight
Weight management is another health benefit of walking, says Bezner. Regular walks can help you maintain your healthy weight and also help you lose weight. According to Cleveland Clinic, walk just 30 minutes a day, and you’ll see results.
10. Walking curbs anxiety
Walking, or any physical activity really, is good for your mental health, too. Bezner says it improves your brain’s ability to function, and research shows walking can reduce instances of anxiety and depression.
11. Walking helps relieve stress
Along with helping you feel less anxious, walking can also alleviate stress. According to Cleveland Clinic, walking releases endorphins, which can improve your mood. Plus, going for regular walks will make you feel physically better, which also offers mental health benefits.
12. You’ll get an immunity boost
Walking has been shown to keep you from getting sick with the cold or flu, and walkers who do get sick tend to have milder symptoms and get well sooner. “In general, the more physically fit you are, the stronger your immune system is,” Bezner says. “Being outdoors, getting fresh air, it’s good for everybody, good for your soul, good for your mind, good for your body, and it breaks up the sitting for sure.”
13. Walking may reduce your sugar cravings
If you have a sweet tooth or like to snack throughout the day, walking more may help you curb your cravings. A study by the University of Exeter found that 15-minute walks reduced the amount of chocolate people ate by half, and they were better able to regulate their daily sugar intake.
14. Walking makes you more creative
When you take a break and go for a walk, you’ll probably feel refreshed and calmer. Researchers at Stanford University found that walking sparks creative thinking and inspiration. “If you’re someone like me who hammers away at a computer all day, stepping away can increase your creativity or allow you to come back feeling fresh with a new perspective,” Navarrete says.
15. It’ll help you feel more productive
The many health benefits of walking, including helping you feel more creative, improved brain cognition, and general overall physical and mental health and wellness could also help you be more productive at home or work.
To get started walking, Navarrete suggests making walking a habit by setting an hourly timer to get up and move, and starting off easy with just a five or 10-minute walk and then progressing. “Find ways to remove excuses and barriers that are holding you back from getting up and walking,” he adds.