In this article we will talk about the health benefits of long walks – every day.
Walk it off. It’s the advice given for bad moods and bad days, for anger flare-ups and muscle cramps. It turns out that this advice is rooted in science and could truly benefit your health.
Long walks may not seem like great exercise, particularly when compared to hopping on your Peloton, joining a CrossFit gym, or signing up for kickboxing or a marathon.
Before you dismiss it from your health regimen, at least review the facts. You could be missing out on a low impact but high health benefit workout.
Health Benefits of Long Walks Every Day
#1 Long Walks Help You Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Whether you’re interested in weight maintenance or weight loss, long walks could actually help.
Research has shown that going for at least a 30-minute walk a day can contribute to weight loss and weight maintenance and can even lead to a reduction in belly fat.
Any movement is certainly better than no movement at all, but you can’t simply stroll for half an hour at a leisurely pace and expect to get health benefits from it.
A brisk walk is what’s needed.
Recommended read: How to Lose Belly Fat in 30 Days – A Proven Method
#2 Long Walks Can Improve Overall Heart Health
Did you know some doctors have actually prescribed walking as a treatment to reduce the risk of heart disease?
It turns out that long walks — at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week — has been proven to lower the risk of heart disease.
For those whose risk is higher due to a genetic predisposition, this could be reason enough to lace up your sneakers and start walking.
#3 Taking Long Walks Every Day May Improve Overall Lung Health
In addition to supporting heart health, long walks can improve your overall lung health.
Regular exercise makes your body work harder to produce oxygen, thereby strengthening your lungs.
Although you may feel like you’re out of breath when you first begin, you’ll improve your lung’s health with repetition of your workout.
Walks may not seem like an intense form of exercise, but a brisk walk taken regularly can help your lungs work a little harder, get a little stronger, and be a whole lot healthier.
#4 Long Walks Can Improve Your Endurance
Just as walking improves your heart and lungs, it also helps you build your endurance.
Just try it, and you’ll notice that it starts to become easier to walk a little further than you did before.
Where you once struggled to finish that 30-minute walk, you may find that you finish faster or can go longer without a problem.
You build up endurance and improve your health in the process.
#5 They Can Improve Your Mood
Don’t underestimate the impact of long walks on your mental health either.
Even 10 minutes of walking has been shown to improve your mood.
Walking can also reduce the negative effects of seasonal depression.
If you take a walk through nature rather than a cityscape, you’ll find your mood is positively impacted even more.
For urban dwellers, opt for a walk through a green space rather than a walk on a city block whenever possible.
It turns out that racing to catch a cab, bus, or ice cream truck isn’t as beneficial as a long walk surrounded by trees.
#6 They Can Increase Your Energy
When your energy is low, the last thing you may want to do is exercise.
It’s understandable. While it may be counterintuitive to do it, you need to get moving to increase your energy.
Long walks, as well as other forms of exercise, can do just that.
Get moving, and you’ll soon find that the energy follows.
#7 Can Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that long walks can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
It’s likely unsurprising that sitting less and walking more improves health, and the study showed that it could actually prevent the development of cardiovascular events like strokes and heart attacks.
That’s a pretty big impact for a reputed “low impact” activity.
#8 Can Help You Improve Your Memory
If you have trouble remembering the name of the person you just met, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s so embarrassing that you may want to take a long walk away from the person whose name you absolutely cannot recall in hopes of remembering.
The good news is that a long walk could help improve your memory.
The bad news is that it’s not immediate, and you may not remember that person’s name right off the bat.
According to the Mayo Clinic, long walks can help improve your cognitive functioning and help with memory retention.
#9 Can Help You Sleep Better
Another benefit of long walks is that they help you sleep better.
Studies have shown that walking daily can improve sleep quality, reduce sleep disturbance, and even help you sleep longer.
Getting enough sleep is tied to many health benefits on its own, so walking to improve sleep could yield an impressive amount of health benefits.
Recommended read: How to Sleep Fast at Night: 10 Good Sleep Habits That Will Help You
#10 Can Improve Your Balance
Are you surprised that taking long walks can improve your balance?
According to an article in Harvard Health, walking strengthens the lower body and improves balance.
Walking is also an accessible activity for many, and improving balance could be important for older populations who could be at risk of falls and resulting fractures.
#11 May Help Manage Health Conditions
Long walks have the added benefit of managing a number of health conditions, including chronic ones.
In addition to supporting heart and lung health, taking long walks can help with diabetes management.
Researchers suggest taking even longer walks than the recommended 20–30 minutes of daily exercise to better manage diseases.
An hour or longer is ideal.
#12 Can Improve Coordination
Long walks don’t just help you stay balanced.
They also help improve your coordination.
As you build endurance, stamina, and overall health, you won’t be surprised to notice that you may actually be more coordinated, too.
#13 Can Make Your Immune System Stronger
With all the benefits you’ve learned about already, it’s easy to see how something as simple as a long walk can boost your immunity.
Regular exercise can lead to better overall health and better immune functioning.
Studies have found that people who walk often spend less time in the hospital compared to those who don’t.
#14 Can Make You Stronger
As mentioned previously, long walks will help you strengthen your lower body in particular.
You’ll find as you walk that your endurance improves, your lung capacity grows stronger, and you even feel better.
The more you walk, the stronger you’ll get. Even if you start small, you’ll find that you can walk for longer amounts of time the more often you do it.
#15 Can Reduce Your Stress Level
When people tell you to walk it off, they’re often suggesting that you cool down. Walking really does help improve your stress level.
It doesn’t just improve your mood and help you breathe better. It can also help manage your overall mental health. The next time you feel stressed out, see if you can walk it off.
#16 Can Help Improve Your Circulation
There are a number of reasons you’ll want to walk to improve your circulation.
For one thing, walking helps delay the formation of varicose veins.
Better circulation could mean less fatigue, reduced coldness in hands and feet, fewer muscle cramps, and less swelling in your legs.
It can improve the health of your veins and even reduce restless leg syndrome.
#17 Can Strengthen Your Bones
Your bones will also get stronger when you regularly take long walks.
Bone strength can help reduce the risk of falls and injury.
Walking can lead to building strength and maintaining it. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can also slow bone loss.
#18 Can Boost Your Creativity
Perhaps a more surprising benefit of going on long walks is that it boosts your creativity.
It actually helps you come up with more ideas to get outside and get moving. If you’re struggling to solve a problem, walk.
You just might walk your way to a creative, out-of-the-box solution.
#19 Can Help Joint Pain and Improve Joint Health
An exercise as simple as walking can also support your joints.
It can help reduce joint pain and improve overall joint health.
As little as one hour walking a week can help alleviate lower extremity joint pain. It is also a safe exercise for many people who suffer from arthritis.
#20 Long Walks Can Improve Your Digestion
Your digestion can also benefit from taking long walks.
Walking regularly improves your gastrointestinal system and helps to regulate bowel movements.
Additionally, it can strengthen your core and further support your digestion.
#21 Can Improve Your Relationship with Your Dog
Studies have shown that having pets can improve your mental health. Walking with your dog can have multiple benefits.
Researchers have found that walking your dog regularly helps you bond with your pet, and at the same time, consistent walks can help improve your overall health as the owner, too.
It’s a win-win activity.
You’ll bond with your dog while benefiting your physical and mental health.
#22 Can Help Reduce Loneliness
Social support isn’t just important to mental health, it can also support physical health.
It seems dramatic to say it, but loneliness actually can be deadly.
It can lead to a breakdown in both physical and mental health. Luckily, walking could be one solution.
Walking regularly with friends is one way to reduce loneliness, but even going for walks in your neighborhood or community could increase your social interaction.
#23 Long Walks Can Help You Live Longer
Last but certainly not least, you could walk your way to a longer life.
Researchers have found links between regularly taking long walks and living longer.
In fact, studies have shown that walking as little as two hours a week could help you live longer.
Walking as much as six hours a week could lower your risk of disease and help you live a healthier, longer life.
How to Work Walks into Your Week
Walking more doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simpler you make it, the more likely it is that you’ll actually do it.
If you don’t have a ton of time to spare, here are a few ideas for walking more.
- Parking a little further from the door when going to work on running to the grocery store could give you a few more steps each day.
- Getting up and taking a short walk every hour or every other could get you moving and help improve your health.
- If you live close to work, stores, or other points of interest, consider walking instead of taking other forms of transportation.
- Play tourist in your neighborhood. Going for a walk around the place where you live can help you see it differently. You could make a new acquaintance, discover interesting sights you never noticed before, or just see your area from a fresh perspective.
- Instead of binge watching a new show, consider taking a walk instead. It could shake up your routine and get you out of the house.
- Make walks fun by doing a food tour or other scenic walk in your city or one nearby. A pub crawl might not be the best idea for your health, but a ghost walk, historic walking tour, or other event that involves walking could help you walk further while having fun doing it.
Finding time each week to walk could help you live longer, feel better, and avoid many preventable illnesses.
It’s also a great way to recover from other, higher-impact workouts. Speak to your physician if you have any preexisting medical conditions that could benefit from walking.
Health Benefits of Long Walks: Safety Considerations
The health benefits of long walks are many. However, it’s important to remember to be safe when taking long-distance walks.
You won’t necessarily access the benefits of living longer if you ignore basic safety precautions. Here are just a few.
- Walk in areas that are well-lit, public, and generally considered to be safe.
- Pay attention to traffic when walking in more congested areas, using crosswalks and keeping an eye out for passing vehicles.
- Stay hydrated. Be sure to bring water when going for a walk. Heat stroke is a real concern in warmer months of the year, and dehydration also carries with it many health risks.
- Use sunscreen. Even on cloudy days, be sure to protect your skin with sunblock or sunscreen. Not only can this help prevent sunburn, it also can help lower your risk of skin cancer and reduce the signs of aging.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to anyone or anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Don’t walk without a good charge on your phone and/or an emergency charger. If you need to call for help, you need a way to do it. A dying phone could be deadly for you in an emergency situation.
- Dress appropriately for the weather. Particularly in colder months, you’ll want to make sure that you dress with the weather in mind. If you’re walking at night, make sure to wear something reflective and have a flashlight with you.
- If you’re planning to walk alone, share your location with someone you love. Let them know where you’ll be, how long you plan to be there, and pertinent details about your plans — including the route you’re taking.
- Have a map with you if you’ll be in an area outside of cell tower or GPS functioning.
Walking is generally considered a safe activity but taking basic safety precautions can’t hurt.
Being aware of your surroundings and preparing for your walk with the right clothes and a bottle of water can help you take advantage of the many benefits of a long walk. It could help your health but only if safety is a consideration in your decisions.
You don’t have to go far on the Internet to find articles extolling the virtues of the latest exercise bike, cross-training program, or fad workout plan.
They may all have their advantages, but don’t overlook the health benefits of something as simple as a walk.
It may not be as glamorous or be Instagram-worthy, but it could help you lead a longer, happier, and healthier life.