5 Impressive Health Benefits of Walking Daily
Hoping to boost your immunity, mental health, sleep quality, and more? One of the easiest and healthiest ways to do so is by simply putting one foot in front of the other.
Yes, walking regularly—whether outside or indoors—is better for both your physical and mental health than you may imagine. Better yet, it’s low-impact, you can go at your own pace, and many of us can continue to reap the benefits of walking for years to come.
5 Health Benefits of Walking Regularly
For inspiration to hit the pavement (or your treadmill), here are five impressive health benefits of walking on a consistent basis.
1. Walking Reduces Stress
Stress is often an inevitable component of modern life. However, walking regularly—even for short periods of time—can help you better manage the effects of stress on your mind and body.
In fact, a 2019 study found that walking in nature three times per week, even for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, can lower your levels of cortisol. (Cortisol is widely known as the stress hormone.)
Thankfully, you don’t necessarily need to venture into the woods or mountains to stress less. The same study demonstrates that this mental health benefit also extends to so-called “urban nature,” such as city parks and tree-lined sidewalks.
2. Walking Can Ease Symptoms of Depression
Next, if you struggle with depression, sadness, or other mood imbalances, it turns out that walking is a worthy antidote to feeling down.
A 2015 study explored two groups of middle-aged Australian women prone to depression. The first group performed 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, while the second group walked for 200 minutes in the same time frame.
Impressively, participants in both groups not only reported better physical health, but also an immense improvement of their depressive symptoms. Markers of improvement included more energy, better socialization, and fewer feelings of limitation on account of mental health struggles.
Even more noteworthy is the fact that the women still reaped these mental health benefits three years after the study ended. This finding shows how walking regularly can compound into long-term health benefits over time, especially for those vulnerable to depressive episodes.
3. Walking Combats Memory Loss
Shifting from mental health to cognition, one health benefit of walking that’s particularly attractive for mature populations is that it can help improve your memory.
In a 2015 study evaluating 120 adults aged 55 to 80, participants were asked to walk for 10 minutes each week. From there, they increased the window by five minutes per week until reaching a 40-minute walking period.
Within a year’s time, researchers discovered a two-percent increase of hippocampal volume, which led to improvements in spatial memory. (The hippocampus, which naturally reduces in size by late adulthood, is a vital component in learning and memory.) This moderate-intensity aerobic exercise regimen “effectively revers[ed] age-related loss in volume” by one to two years.
Simply put, walking can stave off cognitive decline, especially for older adults. (Of course, while it’s best to establish healthy habits sooner or later, this study shows that the “better late than never” adage can still ring true.)
4. Walking Can Bolster Your Immune Response
Next, while a consistent walking regimen may not prevent you from ever getting sick, a 2011 study suggests there’s a good chance that you’ll experience milder symptoms if and when the common cold or flu hits.
This study investigated 1,002 people across two groups. People in the first group walked at least 20 minutes a day, five days a week; those in the second were primarily sedentary, save for a once-weekly workout. Within 12 weeks, participants in the first group experienced less severe symptoms of upper respiratory illness than those in the second group.
In sum, this study demonstrates that frequent aerobic exercise—even from short but consistent, near-daily walks—can ease the burden of grappling with and recovering from these common ailments.
5. Walking Promotes Quality Sleep
Lastly, if you hope to get more sound, quality sleep, it’s worth counting your steps.
According to a 2019 study, a benchmark of 2,000 steps helped female participants benefit from improvements in overall sleep quality. (If you don’t have a step counter or prefer to venture outdoors tech-free, 2,000 steps equates to about a mile’s distance, or an average of 20 minutes of walking.)
The “why” behind the results remain uncertain. However, exposure to natural light during walks may positively influence your circadian rhythm. Plus, as we saw above, walking can ease stress, improve your mood, and promote good health—all of which can contribute to a good night’s sleep.