You don’t need to train for a marathon, spend hours on an elliptical, or turn your guest room into a gym to get fitter, healthier and happier. Keep reading to find out how a brisk walk can make major improvements to your physically and mental health.
WALKING REVERSES DAMAGE FROM PROLONGED SITTING.
If you go from sitting at your desk at work to sitting on your couch at home, a short walk could mean some big health benefits. A Indiana University study found that the muscle activity and blood flow from even three five-minute walks a day could reverse the damage caused to leg arteries from three hours of sitting. The lesson? If you’re sitting all day during work, take frequent breaks (at least once an hour) for a short stroll around the building.
WALKING IMPROVES CREATIVITY.
Waiting for inspiration to hit? Take a walk—Stanford researchers found that walking increases creativity levels during the walk and shortly after, producing twice as many creative responses as when you’re sitting. You get the benefits whether you’re walking outside or inside, so if it’s too chilly for a stroll, hit the treadmill or an indoor track.
WALKING LOWERS STRESS.
A University of Michigan study found that group nature walks lower stress, particularly in people who dealt with an emotionally traumatic event. Research at Heriot-Watt University even found that the brain enters a meditative state when going through green spaces—all the more reason to take a walk through the park after brunch with friends.
WALKING LOWERS BLOOD PRESSURE.
Just 30 minutes of brisk walking lowers blood pressure—and that holds true whether you walk for 30 minutes at a time or break it up into 10 three-minute walks, a totally do-able goal even for those of us stuck sitting in an office all day.
WALKING ENERGIZES YOU.
If you regularly experience fatigue, don’t shy away from lacing up—low intensity exercise won’t wipe you out, says a study from the University of Georgia. In fact, it can increase your energy level by 20 percent and decrease fatigue by 65 percent.
WALKING CHEERS YOU UP WHEN IT’S PART (OR ALL) OF YOUR COMMUTE.
One study found that the longer people spend commuting via car, the worse their psychological well-being. And just adding 10 minutes of walking to that commute can actually improve well being. “A more active commute to work can be associated with the same psychological benefits as things like a raise in income or starting a new relationship,” study author Adam Martin says.
WALKING HELPS YOU AT WORK.
A walking work station at the office isn’t in reach for everyone—but if your employer is open to it, the benefits could be huge. Researchers found that people who used walking workstations were less bored and stressed, and more satisfied than those who stood or sat at their desks.
WALKING BOOSTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM.
A walk a day keeps the doctor away? Perhaps—a daily 30-45 minute walk at a brisk pace can boost the immune system and keep colds at bay, according to research from Appalachian State University. And not only do regular exercisers get sick less often, their colds are all shorter and less severe.
WALKING CAN REDUCE RISK OF IMPOTENCE IN MEN.
Some time spent in sneakers can lead to a better time between the sheets, according to a nine-year study. Researchers found that a brisk two-mile walk each day can reduce men’s risk of impotence, improving blood flow throughout the body (yep, we mean everywhere).
WALKING LOWERS BLOOD SUGAR.
A 15-minute walk after each meal reduces your blood sugar for over 24 hours, a study published in Diabetes Care found—a good reason to skip dessert and step outside instead.
WALKING KEEPS OLDER ADULTS SHARP.
Living in a walkable neighborhood can be great for older adults, researchers say, resulting in not only physical benefits like lower body mass and blood pressure, but better memory and cognition too.
WALKING MAY LOWER BREAST CANCER RISK.
Spend two and a half hours walking briskly each week and you may cut your risk of breast cancer by 42 percent, a study of over 79,000 women found. According to research in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, exercise alters how the body breaks down the hormone estrogen into either benign or harmful byproducts. It also reduces fatty tissue in women’s bodies, which secretes estrogen.
WALKING CAN EASE FIBROMYALGIA PAIN.
Light exercise like walking—even walking in a pool, for a lower-impact option—has been shown to significantly improve physical function, fatigue, and depression in women with fibromyalgia.