In today’s fitness landscape, where trendy workouts like aerial yoga and CrossFit reign supreme, old-fashioned walking is often dismissed as boring and basic. But it’s about time that we gave this severely underrated exercise its due credit. True, it may not leave you in a puddle of dripping sweat, but walking is one of the most effective forms of physical activity out there—for weight loss, for blood pressure management, for stress relief. The list goes on and on. In celebration of mankind’s oldest and most basic exercise, we offer up eight reasons to strap on your shoes and take a stroll. It’ll do your mind and body good!
1. It’s all-inclusive. The beauty of walking is that basically everybody can do it, regardless of fitness level, age or weight. And, best of all, it’s totally free—no pricey gym memberships or complicated gear required. Simply strap on your shoes, place one foot in front of the other, and you’re on your way to better health.
2. It’s easy on the joints. Have you ever started a running program, only to be sidelined shortly thereafter by pesky shin splints? Unlike running, which places a lot of wear and tear on the joints—especially for running newbies—walking is a gentle, low-impact exercise that’s much safer for your joints.
3. It staves off osteoporosis. Even though it’s low-impact, walking is a good way to revamp your bone health. A study found that healthy postmenopausal women who walked approximately one mile each day had higher whole-body bone density than women who walk shorter distances.
4. It fends off diabetes. Walking helps stabilize blood sugar and also shrinks dangerous abdominal fat, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. According to the Harvard Nurses’ Healthy Study, women who did at least 30 minutes daily of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, slashed their risk of diabetes by 30%.
5. It’s good for your heart. Just a 30-minute walk can do wonders for your ticker. According to a 2007 study published in the journal Preventive Medicine, individuals who adopted a walking program decreased several of their risk factors for cardiovascular disease, leading to improvements in BMI, body weight and blood pressure.
6. It whittles your waistline. Although it doesn’t provide nearly the same calorie burn as running, walking can help you shed pounds. A Canadian study found that women who walked briskly for about an hour a day decreased their belly fat by 20% after 14 weeks…without changing their eating habits. If weight loss is your primary goal, aim to walk at a brisk clip—you’ll burn more calories. And, to amp up calorie burn even more, try walking with weights or going up-hill (which has the added benefit of sculpting booty muscles)
7. It blasts stress. Having a rough day? Lace up your shoes and hit the pavement for a nice stroll. Not only does aerobic exercise trigger the release of feel-good endorphins, there is something intrinsically meditative about the act of walking that helps empower you to better manage life’s ups and downs. Plus, if you’re walking outside, you’ll reap the extra health benefits associated with communing with Mother Nature, including improved vitamin D levels and a sunnier outlook.
8. You can do it with others. One of the best parts about walking is that it’s inherently social. In lieu of your usual lunch date, ask your BFF if she’d rather take a long walk. The two of you can catch up while burning calories—it’s a win-win.