Less than four percent of Americans walk or ride their bike to work, but walking just a little bit every day can have a drastic effect on your health. And walking even more than a little bit brings even more benefits.
Generally speaking, psychologists have found that walking, even when you’re heading somewhere unpleasant, boosts your mood. Just by regularly getting you outdoors, walking boosts your vitamin D: seeing the sun’s rays benefit your bones, teeth and muscles.
A walk of almost any length will help get your creative juices flowing, with studies finding that walkers think more creatively than sitters. And, a daily walk can help prevent varicose veins and improve gastric mobility (make you more regular).
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise because it is low intensity and easy on the joints, and unless you have a disability, walking is typically easy, and of course, affordable.
Benefits of a daily ten-minute walk
Fitness trainer Kris Goldman recommends a ten-minute walk at the end of every day to unwind. “Walk around the neighborhood, walk around the house, walk around a local track, walk on a nice trail…just walk…get some blood flowing and muscles moving,” she says.
For people who are completely sedentary, just ten minutes of walking a day can increase your oxygen consumption (a measure of cardiovascular fitness) by 4.2 percent. A brisk ten-minute walk a day will also reduce the risk of early death by 15 percent, according to England’s Public Health authority. In addition, the PHE has found that ten minutes a day reduces lower back pain, improves the way the body handles fat, increases metabolism, reduces inflammation and increases insulin sensitivity.
Benefits of a daily 20-minute walk
Walking 20 minutes per day cuts your chance of premature death by almost a third, according to a University of Cambridge study of 334,000 people. A simple 10 to 20-minute walk every day is also a great way to increase your energy and your alertness, reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke and improve your spatial memory.
A 20-minute walk every day is also what it typically takes to start losing weight — if that is important to you.
Benefits of a daily 30-minute walk
People who walk at least three hours a week are less likely to develop vascular cognitive impairment, also known as dementia. People with dementia participated in a small study and after walking three hours a week for six months, their brain function was found to have improved.
Further, 25 to 30 minutes of walking a day reduces your risk of dying of cancer, according to two studies by the American Society for Clinical Oncology. The studies look at women with breast cancer and people with bowel cancer. And a daily 30-minute stroll reduces high blood pressure and drops the risk of suffering a stroke by 27 percent, according to the Stroke Association.
Benefits of a daily 60-minutes walk
But it’s the longest walking time that will provide you with the highest life expectancy. At this point, you’re reducing your risk of premature death by 39 percent, and you’ll be happy to know that the benefits level off after an hour — double it, and most of the benefits remain the same. If you don’t mind the joint impact, running for two hours and 15 minutes per week has the same health benefits as seven hours per week walking.
How to fit walking into your day
How you squeeze in a quick walk will obviously depend on what you’ve got going on, but there are ways. Walking first thing in the morning can be a great way to wake up, you can turn sit-down meetings into walking meetings, walk the baby or the dog, take a stroll at lunchtime, walk the first or last stretch to work or, for a digestion bonus, take a walk after dinner.
You can then “supercharge” your walk by adding in something steep like hills or stairs, by walking fast or by carrying heavy objects or pumping your arms.
How many minutes of walking do you do a week or every day? Are you feeling the benefits?
— Tamara Pearson