Steps, steps, steps. For the past several years, we have been fed (force-fed, even) a steady diet of the 10,000 steps goal.
But for those of us who have fallen short one day too often, or have been forced by injury or illness into a period of inactivity, walking that much every single day can soon start to feel impossible.
The good news is, you don’t have to!
You don’t need 10,000 steps to get all the benefits of walking. We now know that it isn’t the quantity of daily steps that matters most. Rather, it is the quality of each step you take.
Read on to learn the top six benefits of walking and why any amount of steps will pay off big-time when you do it right.
How to Get the 6 Top Benefits of Walking
Walking sounds so easy. We first learned to walk in childhood. We’ve been doing it for years.
Is there a right way to walk? A wrong way to walk?
No. And yes.
In this particular article, we are talking about a specific type of walking – walking to get desirable health benefits.
To get the health benefits of walking as exercise, you need to consider three vital parameters: intensity, duration and frequency of walking. Let’s take a look at each.
Intensity of walking.
Forget 10,000 steps a day.
Experts at the British Journal of Sports Medicine state that the real magic starts happening when you walk briskly enough to pack in 100 steps every 60 seconds.
In other words, it doesn’t really matter if you walk 10,000 steps a day if you never get your heart rate up while doing it. And if your heart doesn’t benefit from your walking, your body won’t really benefit in any meaningful health-promoting way.
Duration of walking.
So here’s something interesting. Let’s say you decide to take on the challenge of walking 100 steps per minute for 30 minutes a day.
Guess how many steps you will walk in those 30 minutes?
(If you guessed “3,000 steps” give yourself a high five.)
According to the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, the typical guideline for daily cardiovascular (heart rate-elevating) physical exercise is….wait for it….30 minutes per day.
Frequency of walking.
This, of course, brings us to the third and final major criteria for reaping the health benefits of walking. And this criteria is walking frequency.
In other words, how often do you walk at a pace of 100 steps per minute for 30 sustained minutes? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise.
30 minutes per day times five days per week is 150 minutes. This gives you two days of rest, which will allow your body to repair itself in between workouts so you build the kind of endurance and strength that will last.
SAFETY NOTE: Be sure you consult your healthcare provider before starting any new health and fitness regimen.
Your doctor can give you a free personal WebExercises fitness prescription that includes beneficial walking plus warming and cooling stretches and strength-building that is appropriate to your current health needs and future goals.
Get These Top 6 Benefits of Walking
These top six benefits of walking prove you don’t need a complicated or crazy-making workout routine to feel better, look better, sleep better and have better all-around quality of life.
- Walking helps you lose weight – even if your genes say otherwise!
Out of all the known benefits of walking, Harvard Health highlights the one that might provide the most motivational appeal: walking can fight back against a genetic tendency towards weight gain.
For this study, researchers looked at 32 different genes associated with genetic obesity and how each gene responded to one hour of brisk walking per day.
The researchers found out that the influence of each gene was cut in half when walking was added to the study participants’ daily routine.
- Walking boosts your mood, easing anxiety and depression.
If you are one of the estimated 40 million adults who struggle from anxiety or depression or both, we have good news for you.
Walking just 10 minutes per day is linked to several hours per day of anxiety and depression relief.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, walking will also go you one better – lowering your future risk of developing anxiety or depression and giving you added resilience if you do feel anxious or depressed.
- Walking helps you lose weight and keep the weight off.
Our entire culture is fairly obsessed with weight loss and body sculpting, often resorting to sometimes severe methods to get both.
But what if you could do something far less invasive that gives you great results quickly and also offers tons of other health-enhancing benefits?
That something is walking.
The esteemed Mayo Clinic reports that just 30 minutes per day of brisk walking will burn approximately 150 calories.
Walking faster or for a longer period of time will burn even more calories, and do it without causing extra pressure on already overburdened joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones.
- Walking can strengthen your bones over time.
Speaking of bones, a National Library of Medicine study published by the Health and Quality of Life Outcomes BMC Journal stated that hip fractures later in life are directly correlated to reduced quality of life.
This includes ability to live independently, tend to daily self-care activities and enjoy overall mobility, all of which often mean that you can no longer age in place in your own home.
However, there is a bright spot in this news. While most of us associate strength training with weights with stronger, denser bones, walking can also make a significant contribution to bone strength over time.
The Arthritis Foundation points out that this benefit becomes increasingly visible in the later years when decreases in hormone production put women in particular at risk for osteoporosis (brittle bones) and fractures or breaks.
The Foundation also cites a study where a group of post-menopausal women walked 30 minutes per day at a brisk pace. Over time, these participants exhibited a 40 percent reduction in risk for hip fractures due to osteoporosis.
- Walking can improve memory and brain function.
According to the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias® (Sage Journals), American adults today are more afraid of Alzheimer’s disease than they are about getting diagnosed with cancer.
In fact, we fear dementia and its principle type, Alzheimer’s, more than we fear cancer, stroke and heart disease combined.
Yet, all too ironically, that worry itself could be contributing to the ever-increasing spike in dementia diagnostic statistics.
While there are many confounding factors, including increases in average longevity, increased toxins in the environment and genetic predisposition towards Alzheimer’s and dementia, all is not lost.
Walking can and does make a measurable positive impact.
The American Academy of Neurology reports that a regular fitness routine that includes brisk walking can lower the risk of developing two common variants of dementia by up to 29 percent.
The UK Alzheimer’s Society evaluated results from 29 different research studies and concluded that 20 to 30 minutes of daily exercise for as little as one month provided a clear improvement in cognitive performance and brain function.
Here is clear evidence you don’t have to let your fears about later-life dementia rule your life. Why not walk them away instead?
- Walking can help you live longer and enjoy your life more.
There is no question that, overall, we are living longer than at any other period in human history.
But are we living better?
As the previous section here highlighted, enhanced longevity also carries with it certain risks. There are risks of osteoporosis, dementia, loss of personal independence, depression and anxiety, loneliness….the list goes on and on.
As it turns out, regular moderate to brisk walking can help with these….and add to your longevity too!
The Journal of Aging Research explains that adults who exercise regularly may gain anywhere from 0.43 years to 6.9 years of extra lifespan.
And as we have already seen, regular exercise like moderate to brisk daily walking also enhances quality of life in every area of life, including physical strength, mental resilience, emotional wellbeing and cognitive performance.
Ask for Your Personalized Walking and Fitness Prescription
If you love to walk but don’t know how much, how often or how to walk effectively, it is definitely time to talk to your doctor.
Your healthcare provider can give you a free WebExercises personalized walking and fitness prescription tailored to your personal health needs and goals.
Your personal prescription will teach you how to warm up effectively, walk for optimal results and cool down to avoid strain or injury.