The benefits of walking go well beyond improving your physical health.
Lacing up a supportive (yet stylish) pair of sneakers and hitting the pavement for a good walk is a great way to get in your daily exercise.
“From burning calories to boosting your mood, walking is an easy way to work exercise into your days and improve your health,” says Richard Smith, MD, internal medicine doctor at Geisinger 65 Forward.
Here are just 5 health benefits you can get from a taking daily walk:
1. Manage or lose weight
Walking burns calories and, depending on your pace and how long you walk, it can help you lose weight.
“Walking is a great form of cardio,” says Dr. Smith. “Even for people who don’t enjoy cardio or can’t do higher intensity cardio because of joint pain.”
It just takes 30 minutes each day to get the most out of your daily walk. If you’re looking to lose weight, pick up your pace or increase the length of your walk. “Your doctor can help you form a walking plan that can best help you meet your goals,” says Dr. Smith.
2. Reduce your risk of chronic disease
From lowering blood pressure to helping you lose weight, the many benefits of walking include a lower risk of developing chronic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease.
“For example, walking is a recommended method to help lower blood sugar levels and the overall risk of diabetes,” says Dr. Smith.
For preventing diseases, work to lengthen your walks — but not every day. Taking an hour-long walk just one or two days per week is enough to help you decrease your risk of developing a chronic disease.
3. Strengthen your heart
Just 30 minutes of walking each day can help decrease your chances of having heart disease. “The longer you walk, the more your chances decrease, too,” says Dr. Smith.
Walking can also help improve your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, supporting an overall healthy heart.
4. Ease joint pain
Walking helps protect your joints by strengthening the muscles around them. “For example, your hamstring and quadricep are the muscles around your knee,” says Dr. Smith. “These two muscles are strengthened from walking, which can help to reduce knee pain.”
Just remember to talk with your doctor before trying any exercises if you’re experiencing joint pain.
5. Boost your mood
Walking can modify your nervous system in a way that decreases feelings of anger and depression. Being outdoors surrounded by nature and sunlight is a natural way to improve your mood and can help with seasonal depression.
“Walking with someone — a friend or neighbor — also adds a social element to your exercise, making it more enjoyable overall, too,” says Dr. Smith.
When you’re looking to work a walking routine into your daily activity, talk with your doctor about how to make the most of it to improve your health. Need a new primary care doctor? Here's what to look for.