EXERCISE

Walk Every Day for Good Health

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
 | 
October 04, 2021

To get the best health benefits from exercise, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. And walking counts as moderate cardio, as long as you keep a brisk pace.

If you’re ramping up your exercise, congratulations. That’s the path to long-term good health. Walking is a low-stress way to do more.

Perhaps you’re just starting out after a spell of no exercise. Consider making brisk-walking part of your routine.

Perhaps you already go to a gym or enjoy a Zumba class. On the days you can’t make it, walking is a free and easy alternative.

 

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How much walking is required?

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Walking counts as moderate cardio, as long as you keep up a brisk pace — just enough so you’re slightly breathless if you talk. It’s even better if you also pump your arms. When walking vigorously, it’ll be hard to talk out loud.

For the most benefit, wear a heart rate monitor or pedometer (often include with smartphones or via apps) and track how long and quickly you walk — and then up the ante, doing more the next week.

Another approach: Start out on your own until you’re fairly fast, then find an even faster walking buddy.

Is walking an all-over workout?

You’ll exercise your calves, hips, and buttocks. Invest in good walking shoes. Try walking on the beach and grass or hiking trails. Any uneven surface is more challenging than flat cement. That’s why athletes like to train on the sand, to get the most from their time. This kind of walking can improve your balance, awareness, and muscle strength.

Will walking you lose weight?

It’s easy to throw up your hands when obesity runs in your family. But you can beat those genes: When researchers analyzed the effect of 32 obesity-promoting genes in more than 12,000 people, they calculated that volunteers who walked briskly for about an hour a day cut the impact of those genes on their body mass index (or BMI) in half. On the other hand, watching television four hours a day increased their impact by half.

You might think that people who need to lose a lot of weight — or keep it off — must do more strenuous exercise like running or taking a spin class (high intensity cycling on stationary bikes). In fact, the champs of weight loss maintenance tend to be walkers. The National Weight Loss Registry tracks more than 10,000 people who have maintained at least a 30-pound weight loss for a year or longer. On average, they’ve lost 66 pounds and kept it off for 5.5 years. The most common exercise in this group is walking — an hour a day, on average. There’s also evidence that walking and running can bring similar risk reductions for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes — with less stress on your joints.

Walking may target belly fat, some science suggests, and keep you from soothing stress with chocolate.

Is it a good idea to walk right after dinner?

Why not? Earlier science suggested that brisk walks after meals could prevent blood sugar spikes. Recent research suggests that those walks won’t reliably cut blood sugar or blood pressure in people with metabolic syndrome. But any walking is good for you, and evening might be the right time for you to exercise.

Will walking help my mood?

As with obesity, a family tendency to depression can make you feel helpless. Yet, just three hours of exercise a week, including walking, cuts the risk of depression as much as genetic tendency increases it, according to a 2019 study with nearly 8,000 participants.

Is walking enough exercise to really make a difference to my health?

Absolutely. It can extend your life. In a study of nearly 140,000 older Americans, half said that walking was their only physical activity. Those who walked briskly for at least 150 minutes a week cut their chance of dying during the 13-year study by 20 percent. Even people who walked fewer than 2 hours a week cut their mortality risk a bit. Seniors who could walk faster than 1.8 miles an hour landed in the top half of the life expectancy chart in a different study. They also had “exceptional life expectancy” if they could walk 2.7 miles in an hour.

After a heart attack, doctors may ask you to walk for six minutes. Your speed is a standard measure of your chances of survival over the next year.

Walking also cuts your risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, the American Cancer Society reports.

How make walking your routine

  • Make it fun or rewarding.
  • Walk when you need to think through a problem or challenge.
  • Try different parks and surfaces.
  • Walk with one or two friends or join a group.
  • Make a habit of calling a particular friend or relative as you walk (as long as you maintain your pace).
  • Walk your dog or volunteer to walk dogs at an animal shelter.
  • Listen to a podcast, the news, or favorite music.

 

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Updated:  

October 04, 2021

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN