Incredible Benefits of Walking Beyond Body Composition

Walking is an excellent cardiovascular exercise with benefits far exceeding what one might expect. While it’s a simple task that many of us do daily, adding a few more steps to your routine can have a great impact on your wellness and your waistline.

As a matter of fact, walking can be more beneficial to many compared to more vigorous forms of cardiovascular exercise as a low-impact, joint-friendly, and convenient option to incorporate daily. 

Below are some incredible benefits to simply putting one foot in front of the other that may not have even crossed your mind. 

Benefits of Walking

1. Improves Cardiovascular Health 

Several research studies have found a positive correlation between walking and reduced cardiovascular disease risk. Walking is a great exercise for improving many parameters related to our heart health, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels [1].

Walking is also a great stress reliever, which can help to reduce chronic stress levels which are associated with an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Both of which can take a toll on your ticker [2].

2. For Times When You Can’t Run 

Think about it - you’ve just crushed leg day at the gym. Would you be in the mind to also go for a 5k run? 

Unless you’re a super achieving mega athlete, the answer most likely is no. Plus when you’re fatigued, putting more stress on your muscles and joints increases your risk of injury. 

But you can spend 20 minutes walking on the treadmill after a leg workout. You still get your daily steps in, burn calories, and boost your cardiovascular health. 

So, for times when running isn’t ideal, replace it with a walk to still stay on top of your cardio and body composition goals. 

3. Great for Recovery

Walking is great for recovery because it improves circulation to sore and fatigued muscles. Plus it is easy on the joints.

Also consider a recovery supplement to support good sleep, so you can kick start the recovery process and get back to the gym as quickly as possible. 

4. Can Help Boost Endurance

Physical endurance is your body’s ability to perform an activity for a certain set of time. With consistency, you can increase endurance, which means you can do that activity for longer. 

Incorporating more walking into your routine can help boost your endurance levels and may even improve your endurance in other areas, such as running or other forms of high-intensity exercise.

5. May Boost Weight Loss 

If you’re trying to lose weight, exercise is an important component however, not everyone can get into the gym to work out 5 days a week.

Walking is an easy exercise you can include, along with a balanced diet, to increase your daily calorie burn and boost your weight loss efforts. 

This can be done in one go or over the course of the day while doing your usual activities. For example, increasing your step count by 1,000-2,000 steps per day by parking farther away when running errands or walking to work instead of driving can make a big difference over time.

6. It’s Achievable for Most

One of the best things about walking is that it’s accessible to all ages, easy to incorporate, and poses little risk for injury. For those who are new to exercise, it’s the perfect place to start but it’s not exclusive to the fitness novice. 

Walking is the perfect complement to other forms of exercise. It’s also great for those who don’t have a block of time to dedicate to exercise but rather can only get in spurts throughout the day.

7. Zero Time Constraints

Walking can be done at any time, in any way, throughout the day, and it still provides the same benefits.

This means you can go for a long walk in the mornings or you can work on keeping your daily step count up throughout the day in whatever way works for you. 

Can't run after enjoying a big burrito? That's fine, you can go for a walk instead. In fact, there are proven benefits to walking after a meal, even if only for 2 minutes, including aiding in blood sugar management.

Have to take a work call? No problem, pace back and forth in the office to keep up with your steps and productivity [3].

8. Keeps Depression at Bay

Exercises such as walking may also be the key to improving mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.

Research studies that examined exercise in those suffering from depression found that it showed promise as a behavioral intervention for alleviating symptoms [4].

How Much Do I Need to Walk Each Day?

While many recommendations are floating around the internet about how much walking you should do each day to be healthy, there is no ideal number of steps. Many people strive for 10 thousand steps per day, which is roughly 5 miles, which you can split up throughout the day. 

While this is a great goal for a lot of people, if you don’t walk that much currently, it may feel overwhelming. Instead, start with where you are comfortable and work yourself up.

Scaling Up

If walking 5 miles a day sounds like a lot, don’t be disheartened. 

Start with a number that makes more sense and fits your schedule. Maybe you can do 1-2 miles to start. 

No problem, but make sure to track your daily steps and hit at least 1-2 miles over the next week or two. 

At that point, assess where you are, and increase your steps. 

Tracking Steps

The best way to track your steps is with a smart watch like the Apple Watch. 

It’ll track all the small steps like walking back and forth to the kitchen, or walking around the office, all of which adds up to a significant number throughout the day. 

If you don’t want a watch, your phone will still track most of your steps, as long as you carry it with you at all times. 

Otherwise, if you just want to ballpark it, a 30 minute walk approximately adds up to 3-4000 steps. 

What if I'm Too Busy?

The nice thing about walking is you don’t have to do it all at once. This makes it a great exercise for busy people. You can squeeze short bursts of walking into your day or add additional walking by extending what you do currently. 

For example, add 5-10 minutes to your morning walk with your pup, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away when going out, or get up and do a lap or two around the office or your home each hour. 

These will all add up to more movement throughout the day but don't take a tremendous amount of time to add in. 

Is Walking Better Than Running?

Both walking and running have major health benefits. Neither one is better than the other but rather they serve different purposes and goals for each person. Whether or not one works better than the other will depend on the individual.

Walking is a lot easier on your joints and is a great low-impact exercise that almost anyone can do but it is low-intensity, which means it doesn’t get your heart rate up as high as other exercises. 

Running is a high-intensity cardio exercise that gets your heart beating fast and expends a lot of calories compared to walking. Running also tests your endurance levels a lot more. 

Some people also prefer something in between, such as power walking, which combines higher-intensity movement with low-impact exercise, giving you the benefits of both. Regardless of which activity you choose, you are reaping the benefits of more movement.

Don't Lose Focus on Nutrition

Regardless of your movement routine, walking, running, power-walking, or anything in between, proper nutrition and a calorie deficit are required for healthy and sustainable weight loss. No matter how much you try, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. 

Losing weight is tough so it’s better to focus on more achievable goals. Pick 1 or 2 small goals to start and then add to those when you feel ready. 

Struggling with drinking 2-3 regular sodas each day? Don’t try cutting them all out at once, focus instead on slowly cutting them down. Maybe your goal for the next few weeks is to only consume 1-2 instead of 2-3. 

Choose nutritious and balanced meals where you can that emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. 

Bottom Line

Whether you are trying to lose weight, be healthier, better manage chronic health conditions, or anything in that realm, walking is a great place to start. Walking has tremendous health benefits for your heart, brain, and overall well-being. Not to mention, it is so easy to add in!

Don’t feel obligated to try and squeeze in a 5 day a week, hour-long, rigid workout routine into your already busy schedule in the name of weight loss. Instead, take the first step to adding more steps today. Your body and your mind will thank you!