Let me guess.
You think of walking to lose weight is just burning calories. But burning calories isn’t even the most important benefit of walking.
At my Alma Mater, there’s a long outdoor stairwell known as “the steps.”
I climbed “the steps” every day between classes to clear my mind and stay active. This experience inspired me to learn all the benefits of walking.
In this article, you will learn how walking is one of the healthiest things you can do.
Weight loss is just one of the many walking benefits. Losing or maintaining a healthy weight, however, is the motivation to start walking.
Keep reading, some of the benefits will surprise you.
Table of Contents
- 30 Unbelievable walking benefits
- Why Walking Walking For Weight Loss Works
- How long/far do you need to walk to get the benefits?
- When is the best time to walk?
- How Many Calories Do You Burn by Walking?
How walking helps you lose weight
- Improves Circulation
- Burning calories
- Burns Belly Fat
- Strengthens Muscles
- Lowers Fasting Blood Sugar
- Boosts your mood
- Keeps off the Weight
30 Walking Benefits
- Improves Circulation
- Promotes Weight loss
- Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol
- Lowers fasting blood sugar
- Reduces stress
- Increases lifespan/longevity
- Strengthens bones
- Boosts your mood
- Strengthens muscles
- Improves sleep
- Supports your joints
- Deepens your breathing
- Enhances Memory and cognitive function
- Slows mental decline
- Helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease
- Keeps you physically active
- Improves balance and coordination
- Inspires creativity
- Relieves allergies
- Saves money
- Lengthens telomeres
- Helps With pain relief
- Improves eyesight
- Increases social time
- Improves digestion
- Motivates you to make more healthy choices
- Boosts immune function
- Reduces food cravings
- Prevents disease, varicose veins
- Gives you fresh air
Can You Lose Weight Just By Walking?
Walking improves your metabolism and your ability to exercise in several different ways.
Walking burns calories builds muscles, strengthens your bones, improves your circulation, lowers blood sugar, and boosts your mood.Walking burns calories, builds muscles, strengthens your bones, improves your circulation, lowers blood sugar, and boosts your mood.
1. Walking Improves Your Circulation
Walking increases your circulation by forcing your body to become more efficient to meet its needs. Circulation is the blood flow in your body.
Your blood delivers oxygen and nutrients throughout your body and removes wastes. Poor circulation means your arteries, the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your muscles and organs, are blocked or narrowed.
Generally, your extremities are the first to suffer from poor circulation as they are the farthest from your heart. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is when your extremities, arms, and legs do not get enough blood (1). The lack of oxygen to your muscles causes pain, fatigue, weakness, or numbness, especially in your hands and feet.
Why Is It Painful to Exercise WIth Poor Circulation?
When you exercise, your muscles need more oxygen. If you have healthy circulation, blood flow increases to your muscles. If you have poor circulation, your arteries can’t expand to increase blood flow to your muscles.
Walking a long distance with poor circulation can cause pain in your leg muscles known as claudication (1). This pain should go away after resting for a while. However, every time you walk or exercise your body becomes more efficient.
One sign of poor circulation is high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pressing against the walls of your arteries (2). High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when your blood pressure is too high, forcing your heart to work harder to pump your blood.
Chronic high blood pressure can damage your arteries and increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease (2).
Exercise causes high blood pressure but only for the duration of your workout. Regular exercise forces your body to adapt by making your blood flow more efficient and your arteries more flexible. This means that exercise lowers your blood pressure while at rest.
Walking is a form of aerobic exercise, or exercise that requires oxygen. Aerobic exercise enlarges your heart muscles to improve pumping efficiency, improves circulation efficiency, reduces blood pressure, and increases your total number of red blood cells which help transport oxygen (3).
Aerobic exercise improves your heart’s ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.
Walk until it’s uncomfortable then rest. Start walking again when your pain goes away. Gradually walk further or longer, and your circulation should improve.
2. Walking Burns Calories
Exercise plays an essential role in body weight regulation (4).
Walking helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight by burning calories, preserving lean muscle, reducing belly fat, and boosting your mood.
A calorie is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1°C (5). Simply, a calorie is a measure of the energy in the food that you eat. You need calories, along with other nutrients, to fuel your body. However, your body stores excess calories as fat (6).
Fortunately, you can burn excess calories with physical activity (7, 8). One of the easiest ways to burn calories is to walk every day, especially after meals. Walking not only helps you lose weight but also decreases your risk factor of severe health problems (9).
How many calories does walking burn?
Depending on gender and weight, walking one mile (1.6 km) burns about 100 calories (10). But how does walking compare to running for calorie burning?
One study found that running burned about 23 more calories per mile (8).
Both walking and running, burn calories but walking is something you can do every day and for far longer. Also, it is easier on your joints.
Walking to Lose Weight Chart: Calories Per Minute
3. Walking Burns The Worst Kind of Fat
Walking helps you lose weight by burning abdominal fat, also known as visceral fat.
In one study, 20 obese women who walked three times a week for 50 to 70 minutes dropped their waist circumference by 1.1 inches (2.8 cm) and cut 1.5% of their body fat (16).
4. Walking Builds Muscle
Walking helps you build and preserve muscle which helps you maintain your metabolic rate and stay active. Walking helps build muscles in three main ways.
First, Walking tones your leg and abdominal muscles and even your arm muscles if you move them in your walk.
Second, walking improves circulation allowing your muscles to receive oxygen and nutrients to heal and rebuild faster. Also, your body can remove wastes more efficiently.
Third, walking shifts pressure and weight from your joints to your muscles thereby preserving your bones and joints and reducing pain. With less stress on your joints, you can train or work harder or longer.
Moreover, walking can help you prevent age-related muscle loss helping you stay young and active (17).
Walking Preserves Muscles
One problem with cutting calories is that you could lose muscle as well as body fat.
Unfortunately, people that lose weight also lose the metabolic activity of their body fat.
Muscle, however, is more metabolically active than fat, helping you burn calories throughout the day. So exercises that preserve muscle like walking can help you maintain or improve your metabolic rate and keep off the extra weight (18, 19, 20, 21).
5. Walking Lowers Fasting Blood Sugar
Walking and running, especially after meals, can help lower your blood sugar levels and help prevent diabetes.
The National Diabetes Education Program, run by the National Institute of Health, estimates that 79 million Americans are pre-diabetic. Pre-diabetes means that your fasting blood sugar is higher than average and that you are at a greater risk of diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) is too high (22). Blood sugar comes from the food you eat, and it’s your primary source of energy for your body.
Insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, unlocks your cells to receive blood sugar to be used as energy. Having a high fasting blood sugar generally means that either your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or that you have developed insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that your cells have become less responsive to insulin.
Even though your blood sugar levels remain high, your cells are starving for energy. Further, remaining blood sugar can cause serious health problems such as heart disease and stroke (23).
Walking Can Help Prevent Diabetes
The National Walkers’ Health Study tested 33,060 runners and 15,945 walkers. Both runners and walkers reduced their risk of diabetes by about 12% (24).
Interestingly, this study found that both runners and walkers overestimate how long they exercise and how long they sustain their activity. Because most studies estimate exercise dose by time and intensity, the researchers argue that the actual health benefits of exercise are underestimated.
When Is The Best Time To Walk For Weight Loss?
Walking after meals is even more effective for lowering your blood sugar. After meals, you receive an influx of blood sugar, and any blood sugar that is not escorted by your insulin into your cells remains in your bloodstream.
One study of seniors found that three 15-minute walks after each meal were as effective at lowering blood sugar levels over 24 hours as one 45-minute walk at the same pace (25). Further, after dinner walks were even better at reducing blood sugar levels.
The last meal of the day tends to be the largest. If you do not burn off excess energy before bed, your blood sugar levels remain high until morning when you eat and raise them again. Therefore, after dinner is the best time to walk.
Learn more about how to naturally lower your blood sugar in What is Intermittent Fasting: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.
How Does Lowering Your Blood Sugar Help You Lose Weight?
Lowering your fasting blood sugar levels can help you lose weight in two ways.
- High fasting blood sugar levels can damage your arteries over time and slow your circulation.
- Lack of insulin or insulin resistance means that your cells are lacking blood sugar for energy. Instead of giving you energy, your body stores your remaining blood sugar in your muscles as glycogen or as lipid in your fat tissue (26).
Walking and running, especially after meals, can help lower your blood sugar levels and help prevent diabetes.
6. Walking Boosts Your Mood
Regular exercise, such as walking, can improve your mood. Further, if you enjoy an activity and recognize its benefits, you are more likely to continue.
For example, studies have found that exercise reduces anxiety and depression (27). Exercise has positive effects on mood in both healthy people. But walking has an even more significant impact on those with anxiety and depression, as they have the most potential for change.
The best exercises for improving your mood are aerobic exercises that use large muscle groups such as jogging, swimming, cycling, or walking, at moderate or low intensity (27). Further, exercise can reduce depression and anxiety in just one session.
Another study found that aerobic exercise, such as walking, promotes psychological improvements in stress, depression, mood, and anxiety (28).
Why Does Exercise Make You Feel Good?
Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins have an analgesic effect which means they lower your perception of pain and promote positive feelings similar to morphine or a “runner’s high” (29).
Exercise also improves mood as it increases body temperature, improves blood circulation in your brain, and has an impact on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and physiological reactivity to stress (27). It also gives your mind a distraction from its stresses and relieves cognitive dissonance.
Improving your mood makes it easier to continue positive changes until they become a habit. So you will want to exercise knowing how good it makes you feel.
That is why walking is the perfect mood booster, it is not too strenuous, and it is easy to enjoy and be social.
7. Walking Helps You Keep Off the Weight
Only about 20% of overweight individuals who lose at least 10% of their body weight keep it off (33). Fortunately, individuals who successfully maintain their weight loss for two to five years have a greater chance for long-term success.
Regular exercise, such as walking, is one of the best predictors of long-term weight loss success (34). Exercise increases your energy expenditure and helps set your energy balance for weight loss and maintenance.
Exercises such as walking for thirty minutes a day can help you maintain your weight loss, but exercising longer has a greater impact on your weight loss (34).
Because walking preserves lean muscle, which is more metabolically active than fat, you burn more calories whether you are exercising or resting.
Lastly, because regular exercise, such as walking, improves your mood, you are more likely to stay active and be social.
Can I Lose Weight By Walking 30 Minutes A Day?
Walking 30 minutes a day helps you maintain a healthy weight after losing weight and helps prevent weight gain. But if you want to lose weight walking you should walk about 1 hour a day.
A recent study found that you need to walk at least 150 minutes a week, or 75 minutes of jogging, to maintain your current weight (35). Also, those who have lost a lot of weight or are trying to lose weight should walk 200 to 300 minutes a week (35, 36).
Another study found that those who exercise longer were more successful at maintaining their weight loss than those who exercised for a shorter time (37). This discovery seems obvious, but the key point is that walking is more comfortable to maintain for a longer time and it’s something you can do every day.
How Long or Far Should You Walk Every day?
Most studies and experts recommend that you walk at least 150 minutes (about 2.5 hours) a week. However, if you walk even longer, you get even more health benefits. Remember that the benefits of exercise are underestimated.
One hundred fifty minutes a week is about 21 minutes a day or about one mile (1.6km) per day, or seven miles (11.26km) per week. So aim to walk at least a mile per day on average. You can walk faster to reach a mile sooner, or walk slower and enjoy the walk.
How Long Do You Need To Walk To Start Burning Fat?
Your body burns sugars stored as fuel for about the first half-hour of exercise. After these stores are used, your body burns fat from your fat cells for fuel. So one long walk is better for burning fat than several short walks that add up to the same amount of time.
Why should you walk quickly?
Walking faster burns more calories per hour, but it burns the same per mile. So the quicker you walk, the sooner you burn off stored energy and start burning fat.
If you have the time, a long walk will burn as much fat as a short faster walk or jog. When you are walking, even at a slow pace you are active, and being active is always better than sitting.
Walking is the best exercise because almost everyone can benefit from it.
Walking Action Plan
Plan a short walk after each meal to burn off extra calories and prevent your blood sugar from spiking. Also, plan one long walk a day for at least 30 minutes at a brisk pace. If you don’t have time for a long walk, plan a few five to ten-minute walks throughout the day,
- Take longer walks on days that you have the time to give yourself a cushion for the days you are busy.
- Extend your walking time every week until you are walking at least 150 minutes a week.
- If you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, you should walk between 200 and 300 minutes a week.
- If you are short on time, walk faster or walk uphill, or upstairs.
- Varying your pace and intensity helps lower your resting heart rate and raise your heart rate variability (HRV).
- Walking fast is best, but the longer you can walk the more you will benefit from it.
You’ve Walked This Far…
This morning you knew walking was good for you.
You knew that walking can help you lose weight, but now you know how it can improve all areas of your life.
Now that you know the benefits of walking every day, are you going to take advantage of this gift?
What are your favorite walking benefits and routines?