Health and Fitness Benefits of Walking

Starting a regular walking program offers numerous health and fitness benefits!

Good for your heart: Walking regularly can help reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which contribute to heart disease.
  • According to the long-term Nurses' Health Study, which follows the habits and health of 72,000 female nurses, three hours of brisk walking each week (that's just 30 minutes per day) can lower a woman's risk of heart disease by 30% to 40%.
     
  • A 2001 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise found that sedentary women with high blood pressure reduced their systolic blood pressure and body mass by walking 9,700 steps per day at a self-selected pace for 24 weeks.
     
  • Harvard researchers looked at 11,000 men and determined that one hour of regular, moderate exercise (equivalent to brisk walking), done five days a week, may cut a man's risk of stroke in half.
Strengthens bones and joints: Walking is easier on your joints than higher-impact activities like running or aerobics, but it still helps reduce your risk for osteoporosis and reduces your risk of falls.
  • Consistent activity, like walking, reduces one's risk of hip fracture, according to a study of more than 30,000 men and women ages 20 to 93.
     
  • A review of 24 studies on aerobic exercise and bone mineral density in women suggests that walking just 30 minutes per day a few times a week is enough to increase bone density by a moderate amount (about two percent) compared to non-exercisers. Walking was the preferred form of exercise by most participants.
Weight control Walking may seem like a leisurely activity, but with the right intensity, it can elevate your heart rate and burn serious calories so you can reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • A study published in the International Journal of Obesity suggested that 30 minutes of walking on most days of the week may be as beneficial for weight loss as 60 minutes of walking (in combination with diet).
     
  • Researchers from the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center say that simply walking for 15 minutes (or about 2,000 steps) and eating a couple fewer bites of food can help you prevent future weight gain. Want to get an idea of the distance you would have to walk to get 2,000 steps in? Why not take five minutes and figure it out?
     
  • Without changing diet, a review of pedometer-based walking programs found that participants who take 2,000 to 4,000 steps per day (that's about 1 to 2 miles) can still expect modest weight loss (about five pounds per year).
Benefits for the Mind A long list of mental health benefits have been attributed to exercise, including reduced depression, better sleep, and more.
  • Sedentary women who engaged in a walking program reported improved mental and emotional satisfaction and a decrease in stress, according to a Journal of Holistic Nursing article published in 2006.
     
  • Women & Health published another study that measured 128 sedentary, ethnic-minority women. Researchers found that participants who walked more reported increases in positive mental health and well being.
     
  • Another of 124 sedentary older adults found that those started walking for 45 minutes three times per week for six months performed substantially better on several cognitive tasks than those who did stretching or strengthening exercises. Researchers, whose study was published in Nature, think that their improved cardiorespiratory fitness increased blood flow to the brain, which helped improve brain function.
So what are you waiting for? Use SparkPeople's Walking Guide and start putting one foot in front of the other.
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Member Comments

I always feel better on the days I walk outside - even when it is cold. Report
I always walk at home since I fell on the street about 10 years back Report
I have a passion for walking! Report
I love walking with the wife and dog. Thanks for sharing. Report
love my walks! Report
thanks Report
thank you Report
Thank You for a great article..........
..... Report
Great, thanks! Report
love to walk in the early morning and watch the sunrise Report
I love walking Report
EVIE4NOW
Too many creeps out there. Will stick with my treadmill when alone. Report
I always find a good walk in the woods clears my head, emotions, etc. and just makes me feel recharged. Thank god my dog requires 2 walks a day lol. Report
Thanks. Report
I certainly agree that all those reasons are valid. Thanks for the remindeers. Report


 

About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.